Houston Rockets’ point guard Russell Westbrook has been settling for the open 3-point shot far too often this season. Here’s why he should resist the urge to fire away from deep and should live in the paint instead.
When the Houston Rockets traded for Russell Westbrook this past summer, many believed there would be growing pains. The early returns on the 2019-20 season have gone exactly as expected, especially in regards to Westbrook’s shooting. On the season, Westbrook is shooting 21.9 percent from deep, which is a career-low. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Westbrook is also shooting 40.6 percent from the field, which is his lowest field goal percentage since his rookie year.
Despite these early-season struggles, Westbrook had his best game yet in the team’s victory over the Phoenix Suns. Westbrook finished with a triple-double as he was under control and forceful at the same time. This game represented the blueprint on how Westbrook should play for the rest of the year.
Simply put, Westbrook should continue to attack as opposed to settling for the open outside shot. In the Rockets’ latest victory over the Suns, Westbrook only took three shots from downtown, as he shot 10-of-18 from the field, which is a recipe for success. Westbrook’s scoring contributions were much needed for the Rockets, as James Harden was having an unusually off night, going 8-for-27 from the field. Westbrook’s 24 points were second-most among Rockets’ starters and he was able to pick up the slack from Harden’s struggles.
Westbrook continued to attack the rim and avoided long-range shots, which allowed him to control the game. The constant pressure Westbrook put on the Suns’ interior defense opened up dunk opportunities for Clint Capela and gave the Rockets wide-open 3-pointers, which contributed to Westbrook’s 11 assists.
One of the major issues for Westbrook thus far has been that he is simply trying to fit into the Rockets’ 3-point heavy style of play. This is why it was an encouraging sign to see him only attempt three total 3-pointers against Phoenix, as he’s hopefully come to the realization that he’s not a catch-and-shoot 3-point specialist and will never be one.
Coming into this season, Westbrook’s 3-point shooting percentage had been getting worse year after year, and this year has been no different thus far. At Russ’s current pace, this will be the fourth consecutive season in which his percentage from deep will have dropped. This is frightening because it was never great to begin with. This is why Westbrook should move his game away from the 3-point line and plant himself in the paint.
Westbrook’s 3-point shooting should be a rarity, as he should look to avoid them altogether, a la Ben Simmons. When Simmons makes a shot from downtown it becomes a national story.
This happens because Simmons is a horrible 3-point shooter, which is why he doesn’t take that many. This is the approach Westbrook should adopt going forward since he is not a good 3-point shooter. Westbrook has never been a threat from downtown, as evident by the fact that he’s never shot 35 percent or better from 3-point range.
With The Brodie shooting a career-worst from downtown this year, this is further proof that Westbrook should never shoot from deep unless it’s absolutely necessary. The Westbrook we saw against Phoenix was an attacking, relentless blur that dictated the flow of the game. He did this by living in the paint. Even when Russ was outside the arc, he made the right play by attacking the basket and not settling for low percentage shots.
This not only saves his shooting percentage, but it also prevents fast break opportunities for the opposition, because there aren’t as many long rebounds off Westbrook’s missed 3-pointers. It also gets other teams’ guards in foul trouble because it forces them to come over and help on Westbrook’s drives.
The Rockets’ system is all about shooting 3-pointers, getting to the free-throw line and getting high percentage points in the paint. Westbrook should focus on the last two and resist the urge to shoot the open 3-point shot.
The last game shows how Westbrook can elevate the Rockets to an elite offensive team. If he can continue to follow this blueprint, it will give the Rockets something they didn’t have last year, which is another player that can dominate next to James Harden.
Hopefully, Westbrook will continue with the same strategy he had against the Suns, and focus on getting to the rim for the remainder of the season.