One of the biggest moves in the NBA this offseason was the Thunder trading Russell Westbrook to the Rockets for Chris Paul and draft picks. The deal reunites Westbrook with James Harden, who was formerly his teammate on the Thunder before they traded him to the Rockets in October 2012.
Westbrook has gotten negative attention from the media and fans in his career because he is seen as a ball hog. But Hall of Famer Charles Barkley has taken to TV to defend Westbrook.
High usage, low shooting percentage
One reason for Westbrook’s negative reputation is because he gets a lot of usage on the court and takes a lot of shots, but his shooting percentage is low for someone who is seen as a superstar.
He is 12th among active players in field goal attempts, and he has led the league in that stat in 3 of his 11 seasons. Despite that stat, he has led the league in made field goals just once. He has made 43.4% of the field goals he has attempted in his career.
Last season, Westbrook made 42.8% of his attempted shots, which ranked him in a tie for 101st place among all NBA players. It was nearly 25% lower than league leader Rudy Gobert. Westbrook’s 30.9 usage percentage last season, on the other hand, was 10th highest in the league.
Is Russell Westbrook’s intensity a negative?
When a player has intensity on the court, it is sometimes considered a positive. Other times, it can be a negative if it hurts the team’s performance.
Westbrook’s intensity often falls into the latter category. Late in the 2014-2015 season, with the Thunder’s playoff hopes on the line, Westbrook was assessed a technical foul, which — as his 16th of the season — would have required him to sit out the team’s penultimate game.
That would have put them at a big disadvantage, but the league later rescinded the technical foul. That is one example of how Westbrook’s intensity doesn’t necessarily help his team.
Charles Barkley defends Westbrook
Barkley had a “problem child” reputation of his own during his playing days — and after, to an extent — so he knows how it can be to have members of the media and fans to criticize a player for seemingly hurting his team through his behavior.
So when Barkley was on ESPN’s “Get Up!” to discuss the Westbrook trade, he defended the former MVP. While discussing Westbrook, Barkley said he feels “sad” for him because of the criticism he gets. After saying that some NBA players “are bums and can’t play,” Barkley pointed out that Westbrook “gives 120-30-40-50 percent every single game” and gets criticized, which Barkley said “drives [him] crazy.”
Barkley continued his defense of Westbrook by saying he respects him because, even though he’s not the perfect player, Westbrook “gives maximum effort every single night,” which as a former player and just a fan of the NBA, Barkley says he is “going to always admire” Westbrook for the way he plays.
Can Westbrook and James Harden coexist in Houston?
Since Westbrook and Harden were teammates in Oklahoma City, Harden has become one of the top offensive weapons in the NBA. Not mention being the Rockets’ star player.
With Westbrook’s tendency to get the ball a lot and take a lot of shots, he may not be happy taking a secondary role to Harden in Houston. The Rockets gave up future draft picks because they felt that Westbrook could help them win a championship now. However, if he has trouble coexisting on the same court as Harden, he may hurt the Rockets more than he helps the team.