Russell Westbrook is a historically awful perimeter shooter. Let’s talk about it.

There are more than 300 seasons where a player has shot over 300 three pointers indexed in the basketball reference database. Out of these players, only one player has shot below 30% from the three point line. That player is, of course, Russell Westbrook.

Player (season) 3P% TS%
Russell Westbrook (15-16) .296 55.4%
Gary Payton (96-97) .313 54.5%
Lebron James (07-08) .315 56.8%
Lebron James (06-07) .319 55.2%
Allen Iverson (00-01) .320 51.8%
Russell Westbrook (12-13) .323 53.2%

In fact, Westbrook has posted two of the top six most inefficient three point shooting seasons of all time. Even just last year, Russell Westbrook put up bricks in a historic manner, shooting 29.0% from deep on 411 attempts. In essence, he put up the 40th most threes out of any player in the NBA while making the 76th most. He also shot 65% from the free throw line and posted his worst true shooting percentage (50.1%) since his second year in the league. Rough.

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Harden won’t step back

See what I did there with that title? The above-referenced matter is one the discussion of which I’ve found odd. Again, as has been the case in each of the last few years, off-season predictions regarding the following year’s MVP race have omitted James Harden as a serious contender despite him either winning the award or finishing as a runner-up the previous year. And every time, he comes back better and is right in the conversation.

This time, predictably, I’m seeing the source of the expected decline has been the addition of Russell Westbrook. It makes sense, in theory, given both players have turned in some of the highest individual usage seasons in history. But Chris Paul was a high usage player as well with the Clippers. And Harden isn’t going to just suddenly stop being the most efficient player in basketball.

Keeping the math simple—since that’s the prism through which most of the voters see it—I really have a hard time seeing Harden’s raw points per game average dropping below 30ppg. But people are talking about him like he’s suddenly going to drop down to 24ppg.

I think you see Harden turn in something like 31 and 7 this year and Westbrook 20-9-9. I see no reason why both players can’t get their numbers within the flow of the offense given how much faster Houston should play due to Westbrook’s presence.

Ryno on the boards

I wasn’t even aware of this—maybe it’s new—but I realized just the other day that NBA.com maintains ‘box out’ stats which basically break down the number of times a player boxes out per game and how often the team or the player gets the rebound on those box outs.

Naturally, I was intrigued given my theory regarding Trevor Ariza’s absence last season and its impact on the team. As you’re aware, the Rockets finished 29th in basketball last season in DREB% – it was their Achilles heel. While the commentariat thought Ariza’s loss would be felt defensively, my theory was that because his raw rebounding numbers weren’t impressive (just 4.4 rebounds per game), he must have been doing something else that affected the team on the glass. The subtraction of Ariza was the only major change to the rotation from the 2017-2018 playoff roster.

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