Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder may have just been good enough to compete with the Miami Heat for a title. But, we’ll never know. With Russell Westbrook going out with an injury to his meniscus, the Thunder’s title hopes were down and out leading to an early playoff exit.
This year, the team looks a little bit different. With Jeremy Lamb replacing Kevin Martin, he’s done a great job scoring the ball alongside Kevin Durant. Westbrook finally returned to the lineup early this year, and the Thunder look much improved already.
What I’ve noticed, though, is that Westbrook doesn’t seem to have learned from his critics a year ago. One of the biggest knocks on his game has been how many shots he takes — the fact that he plays more like a shooting guard and not a point guard.
I get it. Westbrook is a great scorer. But, a great shooter? Not always.
Through his first few games this year, Westbrook is taking just about as many shots as Durant. May I remind you, Durant is leading the league in scoring and doing it at an incredibly efficient level — 47.2 percent shooting, to be exact. Westbrook, on the other hand, has shot the ball at just 33.8 percent on 17.8 attempts per game — just 0.2 attempts fewer than Durant.
With both Durant and Lamb scoring the basketball at a high level, and Westbrook continuing to take so many shots, I have to wonder if anyone or anything will ever get him to understand the concept at hand here. He can’t be taking that many shots. I’d have no problem if most of the shots were good shots.
But, Westbrook’s issue is that he takes a good handful of forced or unorthodox shots every single night; shots where he’s clearly out of position or simply off-balanced. That, my friends, is hurting the Thunder offensively and could wind up being their achilles heel if it doesn’t get corrected.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Westbrook and the talent he brings. There’s a reason why the Thunder didn’t go to the Finals without him last year. But, with his skill set, he has got to learn to play more efficiently and be wiser in his decision-making. It’s that simple.