The Houston Rockets made a huge move this offseason, bringing in a superstar point guard to play next to the Beard. Now, there will be more shooting around him than he pretty much ever saw in Oklahoma City, especially since KD’s departure.
“Too much help!” Thunder fans claimed whenever arguing that Russell Westbrook should be the 2016-17 Most Valuable Player over James Harden of the Houston Rockets. “Russ doesn’t have the shooters or players that Harden has!”
They weren’t really wrong about that, either. While I’ll forever argue that the Beard deserved the MVP that year, it’s not much of a debate that the Rockets were superior to the Thunder that year in many facets. That’s why they took them down in five games in the postseason. Harden put up a measly 33 points and 7 assists a night, while Russ put up ridiculous numbers (37.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 10.8 assists) to try to keep his team alive.
Now, though, Russell Westbrook will be surrounded with more overall shooting talent arguably since the team that went to the Finals (also with Harden) or the team that almost defeated the 73-win Warriors. He’ll have 3-point threats around him, especially at the guard positions, that will be a new experience for the MVP. Things will be a lot easier, and hopefully, that will help his transition to the Rockets.
3-point shooting through the years
Going more into that year that he won the MVP, the Thunder really struggled from distance that season. They were at the very bottom of the NBA in 3-point percentage, putting up a measly 32.7% clip. Their best shooter, Alex Abrines, shot 38% from downtown and is now out of the league. Even away from 3s, the Thunder were 2.5% under the league average in overall field goal percentage.
Things improved for Russ and the Thunder with the acquisition of Paul George the next year, but not a ton. They still were bottom-10 in 3-point percentage at No. 24, shooting 35.4%. That’s a lot more acceptable than the prior year, but they still weren’t known for taking a ton of 3s.
They had a worse percentage this year than they did the year prior, going down to 34.8%. Jerami Grant emerged as a great corner threat for the team, but most everyone else regressed from distance. PG was an MVP candidate but shot a lower (and still respectable) 38% from deep, 2% lower than the previous season. Just like every year since Kevin Durant left the team, the Thunder were bottom-10 in 3-point percentage.
His team now
Now, though, the Houston Rockets can put a lineup around Russell Westbrook that features all snipers. Brodie isn’t the best shooter ever, of course, but being surrounded by four of them certainly makes things a bit easier. A lineup of Westbrook/Harden/Gordon/House/Tucker would shoot teams off the floor. The playmaking possibilities are out of this world and it should be a fun challenge for Coach D’Antoni as he formulates an offense.
Russ will likely have similar minutes to Chris Paul, running the second unit in the middle of games when Harden sits. He should thrive in that role and feel freer than ever before, able to hit shooters and rack up the dimes. I wouldn’t be surprised if his assist numbers are around the same next season.
There are obvious concerns with the fit of Russell Westbrook in Houston. However, with all the shooting around him this year, it might be better than some people think. I was skeptical at first, but now I’m starting to get excited about this reunion. *All stats via Basketball-Reference*