Houston Rockets: Looking deeper into Russell Westbrook’s 3-point shot
The universally accepted narrative on the newest Houston Rockets point guard is that he’s an awful 3-point shooter. I would be hard pressed to find someone that would tell me otherwise. But is that really true? Let’s take a look inside the numbers.
Much has been made about Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook’s shooting “woes,” especially from deep. To be clear, Westbrook is certainly not a sniper from distance. But does he need to be in order to be effective? Obviously not, as he’s made the All-NBA team 8 times, led the league in scoring twice and won the MVP award. But the better question is whether the Rockets need “The Brodie” to be a sniper.
By the numbers, Westbrook is actually not horrid from 3. He’s certainly shown he can shoot the 3 ball well enough, as he shot 34.1% from 3 during the year in which he won the MVP. During that season, Westbrook made 2.5 3s per game,which ranked 6th amongst point guards appearing in at least 75 games. Granted, 34% is certainly not stellar, but it’s also not THAT bad. You don’t agree? Let’s compare this to Jimmy Butler, who the Houston Rockets desperately wanted.
In the playoffs
Butler shot just 33.8% from 3 this past season in 55 games for the Philadelphia 76ers. Furthermore, Butler shot 26.7% from 3 during these past playoffs! Westbrook shot better than Jimmy Butler during the same playoffs. But there’s something else that may be shocking to those who think Westbrook is putrid from 3. In those same 2019 NBA playoffs, Russell Westbrook actually shot a better 3-point percentage than Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Joe Ingles, Danilo Gallinari, Chris Paul, Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic.
The narrative on each of those players is that they are all good 3-point shooters, so how is it possible for “Brodie” to outshoot them if he’s so terrible from distance? Furthermore, Westbrook shot an identical 3-point percentage as D’Angelo Russell in the post-season, but is anyone questioning D’Lo’s ability to shoot from deep?
Westbrook displayed his ability to be a fairly good 3-point shooter in the previous playoffs as well, as he shot 35.7% from 3 in those playoffs. During that post-season, Westbrook shot better from distance than JJ Redick, Kevin Durant (yes that’s correct), Damian Lillard, Danny Green, Eric Gordon and James Harden. We would all agree those are stellar 3-point shooters, correct? So how is someone who is a “bad 3-point shooter” shooting better than each of them?
The Houston Rockets would certainly welcome Westbrook shooting 36% from 3, as that would be more than they’re likely expecting. What we also have to understand is that Westbrook will be shooting uncontested 3s because his perception of being a horrid 3-point shooter will certainly cause defenses to sag off and give him that shot. Obviously, the Rockets would much rather James Harden or PJ Tucker be shooting 3s, but a wide-open Westbrook isn’t all that bad of an option either.
As I said, Westbrook is not a sniper, so I’m not saying we should ignore when he shoots badly from deep. What I am saying however is we should also not ignore when he shoots no-so-badly from deep. It’s fair if you think he’s not a good 3-point shooter, but ask yourself this question: would a bad 3-point shooter really shoot better from distance than Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Joe Ingles, Danilo Gallinari, CP3, Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, Damian Lillard, Danny Green and Kevin Durant?
All I know is that is an impressive list of 3-point shooters Westbrook is out-shooting in post-season play, which is when it matters most. Westbrook has a better post-season 3-point average than CP3 in the last two years, which is the duration of CP3’s time as a Rocket. By the numbers, Westbrook shot 34% and CP3 shot 32.2% in the past two playoffs.
So with that said, are we sure Westbrook isn’t going to thrive in Houston? And can we kill the narrative that Westbrook is a “horrible” 3-point shooter?