There’s a ton to love about the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have the defending scoring champion in Kevin Durant. They have an emerging dominant frontcourt player in Serge Ibaka. They have a confident and talented floor general in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder have everything in place to be successful in this league, which they proved by making it to the NBA Finals last season.
However, if there’s one criticism that can be said about the Thunder, it’s definitely the shot-selection of Westbrook.
This criticism is a pretty widely discussed one, but rightly so. Westbrook takes 18.6 shots per game, the most for Oklahoma City. Durant, in comparison, only takes 18.1 shots per game. However, the difference there is that Durant is shooting 51.9 percent from the field while Westbrook shoots a lowly 42.6 percent from the floor, the worst percentage among the Thunder’s top-six in points per game.
It’s not that Westbrook needs to stop shooting altogether—that’s actually a terrible idea. He’s way too talented offensively for that to happen. However, he does need to learn to take smart shots or shots from spots on the floor where he’s efficient from.
Other than shots at the rim, where he’s shooting 51 percent from this season, Westbrook has been legitimately efficient from only one spot on the floor. He’s shooting 47.7 percent on mid-range jumpers from the left side of the floor this season.
Considering the placement of those shots, it’s unlikely that those jumpers are taken off the dribble. Bringing the ball up the floor, most of those shots come around the top of the key. So if he’s taking shots in the mid-range on the left side, those are most likely when he’s coming off of screens and catching and shooting.
Basically, if Westbrook wants to improve his shooting percentage, he needs to take most of his jump shots when he’s playing off the ball and attack the rim when he’s creating his own shot. In theory, if he focuses more on scoring in those specific ways, his efficiency will improve. And that would be an enormous boost for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City is already one of the three best teams in the league. However, if Westbrook is able to score more efficiently and take better shots, the Thunder have a chance to be one of the best offenses in league history and possibly one of the all-time great teams in history.
If he doesn’t, they will still be an incredibly good team. But when they’re playing against teams like the juggernaut Miami Heat, that’s not always going to be enough.