All of the talking heads have pointed out struggles in Westbrook’s game. Here’s his one struggle that should make Rockets’ fans concerned.
Much has been made about the flaws in Russell Westbrook‘s game. Many view him as a poor defender, a player who is too ball dominant and a poor three-point shooter.
I’m not exactly worried about those things nor do I necessarily agree with those points either. Everyone will always rush to judgement before a single game is played and before we even see what Mike D’Antoni will draw up.
What I’m really concerned about however is something different and something Westbrook will have to change on his own. His free throw shooting.
Westbrook has had his free throw shooting dip in each of the last two seasons. Two seasons ago he shot 73.7% which was lower than the 84.5% he shot during his MVP season. And this past season he shot 65.6% from the line. 65.6%. To put that in perspective, Clint Capela shot 63.6% from the line this past season. What makes it even worse is the fact that DeAndre Jordan shot better than Brodie from the line! Westbrook should never be anywhere close to Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan’s free throw percentages.
These free throw woes have really neutralized a strength of Westbrook’s, as Westbrook has gotten really adept at drawing fouls. Prior to this past season, Westbrook ranked top six in the league in free throws attempted in each of the last four years. In fact, the year he won the MVP, he shot nearly identical from the line as James Harden, who we know is a master at the line. In that season, Brodie had 840 free throw attempts, which was the second most to Harden’s 881. By the same token, Westbrook shot 84.5% to Harden’s 84.7% in at the line.
This past season, however, Westbrook only got to the line 451 times, which was the fewest of his in the last 5 years and also surprisingly low for someone who has had the ball as often as Brodie. If Westbrook will continue to struggle from the line, this could really force him to change his game, as he has the quickness and athleticism to drive down the lane and draw a foul essentially anytime he wants.
People have been highlighting his three point shooting woes, but the truth is there is a correlation with his free throw struggles. When Westbrook isn’t making his free throws, he’s settling for the outside shot. This past season, Brodie only made 65.6% of his free throws thus he had less free throw attempts. However his 411 three point attempts were the second highest of his career. Could this possibly be because he didn’t want to drive and draw fouls so he settled for the outside shot? Possibly so, but hopefully for Rockets fans, Westbrook will be able to get back to shooting in the mid 80% range.
A great player like Westbrook will seemingly bounce back and this is a struggle that has really only crept up on Westbrook recently. Hopefully he’ll be able to get his struggles from the line corrected!
*All stats were courtesy of Basketball Reference*