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Houston Rockets: How John Wall is outplaying Russell Westbrook

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 16: John Wall #1 of the Houston Rockets breaks up assistant coach John Lucas as talked with him and Eric Gordon #10 before the start of their game against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on January 16, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. 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. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 16: John Wall #1 of the Houston Rockets breaks up assistant coach John Lucas as talked with him and Eric Gordon #10 before the start of their game against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on January 16, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. 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. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets
John Wall #1 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Houston Rockets: What do John Wall and Russell Westbrook’s player tracking tell us?

The advanced metrics show that both John Wall and Russell Westbrook have had uneven starts in their new homes. Advanced metrics tend to be best with large sample sizes and drawing any sweeping conclusions from seven games is an unwise venture.

However, some metrics stabilize more quickly than others and player tracking data can shed some insight on where Wall and Westbrook are either underperforming or overperforming. Neither Wall nor Westbrook have come out of the gates scorching hot from 3-point range but will this continue or could it get worse.

John Wall and Russell Westbrook for their careers’ are both poor 3-point shooters but Westbrook has thrown up enough bricks in his career to have completed the Great Wall of China. Wall may not be a good shooter, but compared to the brick mason that Westbrook is, he starts to look like Steve Nash.

The difference between the two lies in their catch and shoot 3-point shooting. Wall has converted 47.4-percent of his catch and shoot threes, while Westbrook has only converted 38.9-percent of his. However, Wall’s advantage on catch and shoot 3-pointers is eroded by his absolutely abysmal shooting on pull-ups.

Wall has only hit 8.3-percent of his pull up 3-point attempts, which makes Westbrook’s 21.4-percent efficiency on the shot look downright amazing. Needless to say, it is incredibly early but what form of regression to the mean can we expect for these two?

Wall missed all of the 2019-20 season, but in 2018-19 he converted 37.3-percent of his catch and shoot 3-pointers and 20.6-percent of his pull-ups. If this is closer to his true talent levels then he’ll see his overall 3-point shooting stay relatively static as his shooting begins to normalize.

Westbrook, last season, hit 29.1-percent of his catch and shoot 3-pointers and 24.2-percent of his pull-ups. This indicates that Westbrook is due for negative regression from 3-point range as the season goes on, which is not something you want to hear from a player currently shooting 30.3-percent from distance.

If the Rockets can convince John Wall to not take pull-up 3-pointers and stick to the catch-and-shoot variety he’ll have a chance to post one of his best 3-point shooting seasons. Wall has been and will likely remain the better 3-point shooter than Westbrook.

While Wall and Westbrook could build a new school building if they decided to play horse, the two have had very different starts to the season on the defensive end. Per NBA tracking data, Wall has allowed opponents to hit 45.8-percent of their shots on an expected field-goal percentage of 47.2-percent.

Westbrook, on the other hand, has allowed opponents to shoot 53.6-percent from the field on an expected field-goal percentage of 45.8-percent. The difference between when Wall contests a shot and when Westbrook contests one is the difference between Christian Wood shooting (53.6-percent from the field) and OG Anunoby (45.7-percent from the field).

The player tracking data indicates that Wall’s defense, while not elite, remains at least average and that Westbrook is entering the phase of his career where he’ll need to be hidden on defense. The Wizards have the 28th ranked defense and the Rockets have the 14th, one has to wonder how much of that is owed to the two swapping Wall for Westbrook.

Next: Will it continue?

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