Russell Westbrook has been a controversial signing for the Lakers, but he’s had an eye-catching start in L.A., with his style of play and fiery attitude inspiring comparisons to Kobe Bryant. Although it’ll be tough for him in a system that can’t consistently put up points on any given night, there are plenty of reasons why fans should get excited about this acquisition—in spite of the haters
Russell Westbrook has been playing well for the Los Angeles Lakers. He is averaging 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 10 assists per game. But he has also struggled with his shot and turnovers in recent games. Read more in detail here: los angeles lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers are 14 games into the 2021-2022 season, giving them plenty of opportunity to delve into advanced analytics without having to worry about tiny sample sizes or outliers.
So, how do the stats stack up for Russell Westbrook’s early career?
Lakers supporters understood this would be a long process when Rob Pelinka traded Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the 22nd selection for Russell Westbrook. However, they had not anticipated things to spiral so far out of control.
The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers by 24 points on Friday night, while Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the team stood about with their shoulders dropping. They seemed helpless, as if they were a junior varsity team that had been dumped on by the varsity team.
The Purple and Gold then eked out a victory over the 4-9 San Antonio Spurs on Sunday afternoon, thanks to Anthony Davis’ monster performance and Talen Horton-return Tucker’s from injury.
The Lakers are 8-6, and it’s become clear that the “process” isn’t working.
Kendrick Nunn, Tal Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza, and previous MVP LeBron James have all been sidelined with serious injuries. With small modifications, Rajon Rondo, Wayne Ellington, and Austin Reaves have also missed time. Still, according to www.basketball-reference.com, the Purple and Gold have had the 22nd easiest schedule, and lingering around.500 looks troubling when you consider their home-heavy early run of games.
If you read the Lakers’ comment sections, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of hatred for Russell Westbrook, and it’s rising with each careless pass, but how much of the blame does “The Brodie” deserve for the Lakers’ poor start?
Then, we’ll go through Russell Westbrook’s excellent, poor, and ugly performances this season to see how the former Thunder MVP has fared.
Note: We won’t utilize typical box score figures since they don’t accurately reflect Russell Westbrook’s performance. We’ll also skip most all-encompassing advanced statistics since it’s still early and some of the most useful data, such as ESPN’s true plus-minus and Dunks & Threes EPM, isn’t available yet.
At 17.0 per game, Russell Westbrook and Luka Doncic are tied for second in the NBA in potential assists. We can see that Westbrook is finding open people with excellent dimes since he’s averaging 8.5 (actual) assists per game; they’re merely missing approximately half of their chances.
This notion that Westbrook is a better passer than most people realize is supported by his recent statistics:
At 21.9 per game, Russell Westbrook led the league in potential assists.
While playing alongside passing superstar James Harden, Russell Westbrook was sixth in potential assists with 15.5 per game.
Russell Westbrook led the league in potential assists with 20.8 per game, 4.5 more than LeBron James, who came in second.
Russell Westbrook has been a good setup man for the Lakers, but everything he accomplishes, like most of his game, comes at a price. He coughs up the ball 5.4 times a game, which is the most in the league. In the end, yeah, Westbrook is creating good opportunities for his teammates, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is an abysmal 1.54 this season, ranking him 118th out of 145 qualifying guards (minimum 15 MPG).
Russell Westbrook is fourth among qualifying guards (minimum 15 minutes per game) in rebound percentage this season, at 11.3 percent. Russell’s rebounding skill is well-known, but most spectators overlook it. Westbrook snatches down rebounds like a big man, but once he gets the ball, he pushes it up the floor like a jet-fueled guard this season.
Russell Westbrook has a fast 105.37 pace in the early parts of the 2021-2022 season, which ranks him 10th among all NBA players (minimum 15 MPG). Taking a break is always beneficial. When opposition defenders are backpedaling and scattering over the floor attempting to locate their assignment, it’s simpler to score.
Unfortunately, in his first 14 games, the former Bruin has connected on a league-low 52.0 percent of his shots at the rim, lowering the athletic Lakers to 15.1 fast break points per game.
Russell Westbrook’s shooting has been abysmal this season. He’s hitting 32.2 percent of his long shots and 42.7 percent of his total shots on 17.2 shot attempts per game, which places him 30th out of 46 players who take 15 or more shots each game. Westbrook is a horrible high-volume shooter, to put it simply.
Westbrook has never been a pure shooter, and his figures with the Lakers this season are identical to his career averages of 43.7 FG% and 30.5 3P%. What concerns me is the sort of shots he’s attempted in 14 games in Hollywood.
Russell Westbrook is averaging 1.6 pull-up three-pointers per game this season, more than twice the rate of outstanding Lakers shooters Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington, and Kent Bazemore. He’s hitting on just 30.4 percent of his shots, as predicted.
Worse still, Westbrook is taking 4.3 midrange pull-up jumpers a game, the league’s most difficult and inefficient shot type, and he’s only hitting 39.8% of them.
Westbrook is a go-to guy for assists. Despite this, he’s shooting like Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard, ranking 41st out of 450 NBA players in pull-up attempts per game.
This is not the offseason promise made to Lakers fans. LA aficionados were sold a story of redemption and transformation. Westbrook would come in and integrate, they were promised. He’d erected additional screens and slashed his way to the rim. He’d put his low-efficiency shots, which had plagued him throughout his career, to the side.
So far, Russell Westbrook has been the same old Russell Westbrook.
With a 105.2 offensive rating, the Lakers are 22nd in the league. Injuries have played a role, and adjusting to almost a dozen new faces has been difficult.
Despite this, Rob Pelinka moved three quality role players, KCP, Kuzma, and Harrell, to the Wizards for Russell Westbrook, so the elderly LeBron could rest or suffer a minor injury. It’s still early, but the results haven’t been promising.
This section is dedicated to Russell Westbrook’s defense because, let’s face it, few people anticipated “The Brodie” to transform into a high-volume offensive weapon.
Russell Westbrook has struggled with his shooting and passing, but on the bright side, he’s been having a blast. Unfortunately, Westbrook isn’t doing as well on defense, where he’s just not giving it his all.
The figures speak for themselves.
Russell Westbrook is allowing his assignment to shoot 38.2 percent from three-point range per game, which is 4.9 percent higher than their regular average and tenth-worst in the league among guards (minimum five 3-point shots defended to remove some of the noise).
To make things worse, Westbrook is only contesting 2.1 of the 5.2 deep shots he has been entrusted for defending for the Lakers this season. The arithmetic is simple: he’s allowing 3.1 wide-open 3-point attempts per game.
Contested shots are a hustle metric that illustrates which players are working hard on defense and which are slowing down and resting their legs. Russell Westbrook’s defense (or lack thereof) isn’t about his age or the number of miles he’s done. Sure, he’s 33 years old, but as we’ve previously established, he’s the league’s 10th fastest player. It’s all about the heart and attitude here.
How can an All-Star like Russell Westbrook play at a high level on offensively and then slack off on defense? That’s not how the Lakers win.
With a gigantic do-it-all player like Anthony Davis in the fold, the Lakers’ defense is 12th in the NBA, an inexcusable rating. Russell Westbrook has a defensive rating of 257th in the NBA, which is bolstered significantly by his rebounding percentages. This season, his on-ball defense has ranged from decent to weak, but it’s the manner he’s ambling out to open three-point shooters that has hurt the most.
The NBA as a whole has struggled from long range this season, shooting 34.3 percent compared to 36.7 percent last year. Westbrook’s lethargic attitude on the perimeter will hurt the Lakers’ championship prospects if he doesn’t start hustling on the less glamorous end as players across the NBA acclimate to the new Wilson game.
Russell Westbrook: What Can We Expect From Him in the Future?
Lakers supporters are already calling for Russell Westbrook to be benched or for the team to pull off the impossible and move him. That’s a bit early for that. We are unable to sell our Westbrook stock at this time. Even massive corporations like Google and Apple experience stock market drops from time to time, only to recoup a few months later.
Russell Westbrook’s turnover issues have gotten a lot of attention. Even still, a simple glance at TPG’s top-5 players this season reveals a Who’s Who of MVP contenders:
Leaders in Turnover in 2021-2022:
Russell Westbrook (5.4 TPG) is the first player on the list.
2. James Harden has a TPG of 4.9.
3. Paul George (TPG: 4.4)
Kevin Porter Jr. has a TPG of 4.4.
5. LeBron James has a TPG of 4.2.
This year, James Harden, Paul George, and LeBron James have all given up almost as much as Westbrook, yet no one is clamoring for them to be traded.
People in La La Land are tearing their hair out over Westbrook’s shooting issues, but what did you expect? Westbrook is a phenomenal athlete who has trouble shooting the ball. This is well understood.
The fundamental issue is Westbrook’s defensive mindset. Hope, on the other hand, holds the reins. Early in the season, LeBron James has missed more than half of the Lakers’ games. As LBJ regains his health and returns to the field, we may expect him to whisper defensive nothings into Russell’s ear. It’s difficult to fathom any NBA player, much alone Westbrook, half-heartedly dashing out to open three-point shooters while the GOAT cheers him on.
Talen Horton-Tucker, the Lakers’ top perimeter defender, has only been in one game, while lockdown specialist Trevor Ariza has yet to play. They’ll have a big influence on the perimeter defense of the Lakers.
Westbrook has underperformed, but things haven’t gone too far in the wrong direction. Mr. Triple Double still has time to rein in his sloppy passes and quit jacking terrible spot up jumpers while putting in more effort on the less glamorous end.
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