Russell Westbrook’s career represents quite a conundrum. On one hand, it’s impossible to deny what a transcendent talent he is. Westbrook does things on a basketball court no human being should be able to accomplish. On the other hand, there’s no denying that he’s had a frustrating career in other respects. Despite a few opportunities, he has yet to lead a team to an NBA championship.
Westbrook is a great player, but there may be one aspect of his game that keeps him from truly being considered elite.
Russell Westbrook’s career overview
Russell Westbrook is regarded as one of the NBA’s best overall players. Before being traded to the Houston Rockets this season, he spent 11 productive years as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Here’s what he’s been able to accomplish during his career:
- 828 games played
- 23 points per game
- 8.4 assists per game
- 43.5% shooting on field goals
- 80% shooting on free throws
- 21.9 Player Efficiency Rating (PER)
- 97.5 win shares
- Two-time scoring champion
- 2016-2017 NBA Most Valuable Player
- Eight-time All-Star game selection
During Westbrook’s last three years in Oklahoma City, he averaged a triple-double for the entire season. That’s a feat that only one other player (the great Oscar Robertson) has accomplished even once, let alone three times.
One area of Russell Westbrook’s game that could use improvement? His three-point shooting. His career three-point shooting percentage is 30.7%. The issue is it’s declining. In Westbrook’s MVP season of 2016-2017, he shot 34.7% from the three-point line. Look at his totals from the ensuing three seasons since:
- 2017-2018: 29.8%
- 2018-2019: 29%
- 2019-2020 (so far, through seven games): 25.8%
That’s trending downwards. Westbrook has shown the ability to create offensive opportunities for himself almost at will off the dribble. But a startlingly low percentage of those opportunities have led to actual baskets.
His numbers from the three-point line show that Westbrook isn’t always the best offensive player at actually scoring — sometimes he’s just the best at creating an open look for himself.
This one thing will keep Russell Westbrook from being a truly elite NBA player
SportsRaid, a site that focuses on sports data journalism, compiled a list of the 25 most overrated players in the NBA. It listed Russell Westbrook as the sixth most overrated player — a harsh judgment to be sure, but one backed up by statistics. The piece points out that when it comes to three-pointers, Westbrook is very bad.
“Westbrook is the worst shooter in the NBA right now and the worst volume three point shooter in league history, making under 31% in almost 3000 career attempts. Westbrook’s raw numbers put him among the game’s elite, but his inefficiency and foibles will always leave him a step behind the rest.”
Right now, most NBA teams build their offenses around the three-pointer. It’s the most efficient shot to take for obvious reasons — if teams can master that, they get more points than teams who focus on normal, two-point field goals. Westbrook can’t help the Rockets do that.
Westbrook is a phenomenal NBA player who without a doubt is one day headed to the Hall of Fame. But his game is wildly inefficient. He’s a ball-dominant player who needs to take a lot of shots to be successful.
On top of that, he’s not good at making a high percentage of those shots. While that means he can put out some truly eye-catching stats, it doesn’t translate to wins.
If Westbrook truly wants to be an elite player, he’ll work on getting more value out of the shots he does take as opposed to going for volume.