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Houston Rockets: How Westbrook could resolve Harden’s double teams

By Anthony Duckett
ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 13: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Orlando Magic on December 13, 2019 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 13: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Orlando Magic on December 13, 2019 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
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With the Houston Rockets having difficulty resolving the constant double teams James Harden has been facing, here’s how Russell Westbrook could be the solution.

With James Harden seemingly scoring 50 points on a nightly basis, opposing defenses have decided to throw constant double teams at Harden. When this strategy has been employed, the Houston Rockets have struggled mightily, as it’s taken the ball out of the hands of the best scorer in the league. The result of this has often been Russell Westbrook taking a wide open 3-pointer, which is certainly not good for the Rockets. Over the course of Westbrook’s 12 year Hall of Fame career, he’s developed a reputation for being unable to knock down treys and he has certainly lived up to that narrative this season.

Russ is shooting 22.8 percent from downtown, which is lower than he’s shot from downtown in each of his previous nine years. It’s certainly understandable how Westbrook would be tempted to shoot the wide open trey but the Rockets would be much more successful against this defensive strategy if he resisted the temptation to take that shot. A lot of the times there isn’t a single defender in sight, which gives Russ the option for a higher percentage play.

This gives The Brodie the option to take a few steps in front of the 3-point line, which would be a higher percentage shot, especially when he’s wide open. For the season, Russ is shooting 34.5 percent within 10-16 feet of the basket, which is actually an improvement over last season. Westbrook’s shooting percentages have increased in each area of the floor aside from behind the 3-point arc, which is why defenders are sending help to Harden and leaving Russ open behind the line.

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Westbrook could also drive towards the basket when he’s wide open and draw another defender, which would leave one of the Rockets’ shooters open behind the 3-point line as well. If the Rockets are going to conquer the double teams Harden is consistently seeing, it all falls on the shoulders of Westbrook. The less he takes the open 3-point shot, the more likely the Rockets will be able to get a higher percentage shot, even if he’s the one taking it.

Russ is making 49.4 percent of his 2-point field goals this season and if he would take those shots the Rockets would likely see double teams less frequently on Harden. When Russ takes these 3-pointers on Harden’s double teams, he’s playing into the hands of the defensive strategy.

Westbrook is a cerebral player and surely knows he can make a higher percentage play than shooting from downtown. Hopefully Russ will make this change sooner rather than later!

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