3. Adjustment to schematic change
Heading into the season the Houston Rockets faced a plethora of questions regarding how they would alter their offensive strategy to suit Russell Westbrook’s strengths. Early in the season Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni struggled to get the best out of The Brodie, which caused false reports to circulate that the Rockets were looking to trade Russ.
Through Russ’s first 19 games of the season he averaged 21.7 points per game on 152-of-381 attempts, which gave Russ a field goal percentage of 39.9 percent. It became clear that something needed to change, as the Rockets weren’t getting the best out of Russ.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni made the realization of how much better the Rockets were whenever former center Clint Capela wasn’t on the floor. Capela had missed nine games prior to the month of February, which allowed D’Antoni to see how much the spacing improved with him off the floor.
D’Antoni and Daryl Morey fully committed to the strategy and traded Capela, which took away a lob threat for Russ but gave him the ability to become the Rockets’ center on offense. This meant Russ’s focus shifted more into attacking and having a score first mentality as opposed to facilitating and feeding the ball into Capela in the post.
In fact, Russ went from averaging 22.2 shots per game to 25.5 during the month of February, as he became the Rockets’ go-to scorer. To that point, Russ was the Rockets’ leading scorer in four of the Rockets’ final seven games in February.
It’s not necessarily easy to make a schematic change midway through the season but Russ has made it look easy and turned in a stellar month of February, which was the Rockets’ first month of making the change.
Next: No. 2