Comparing and understanding Russell Westbrook using hotspots
It came out this week that Russell Westbrook finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting, which was a little low considering he floated around the top spot for much of the last three months. Probably the most likely reason for that is his subpar field goal percentage, a not so awesome 39.8. I wrote a month ago about Westbrook and how we should be patient in his development as a point guard and highlighted some stats from Deron Williams, Dwayne Wade, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker’s rookie seasons. But I got to looking at their hotspots recently and that really helps hammer home the point. Now hotspots only go back to 2004 so Parker’s rookie season is missing, but I used seasons that might be comparable anyway to Westbrook. (Also, just so it’s known, I’m considering a jumpshot anything outside the four closest areas).
First Russell’s 2008-09 hotspot chart:
Westbrook took 68.7 percent of his shots from about 12 feet and in and shot 42.4 percent in those areas. He only took 31.3 percent true jump shots out of his 1095 field goal attempts on the season. He shot 27.1 percent from three on 129 attempts. Not good shooting numbers anywhere, but if he hits two more shots at each of the third level spots, he hits about 42 percent in all those areas and shoots 41 percent for the year. And that’s just 10 extra makes. Or if he finishes 10 more layups at the rim that barely rolled out (how many of those did he have – 50?) and he hits 46 percent in that area and 41 percent for the year.
In the 2004-05 season (his fourth in the league; his rookie year he averaged 9.2 ppg on 41.9 percent shooting), Parker averaged 16.6 ppg and 6.1 apg (pretty similar to Westbrook’s 15.3 and 5.1). That season he hit 48.2 percent of his shots, but look at all that blue. On jump shots, Parker hit just 41 percent and 27.6 percent from three. He took about 35.5 percent jumpers (again, Westbrook 31.3 percent jumpers). And if you look at 2005-2007, those seasons aren’t much different. Parker mainly scored via layups and short runners. For Westbrook, he hit just 34 percent on jump shots. While quite a bit lower, it’s really affected a lot by his 27 percent from three. Take that out and the number is a little more respectable 37.5 percent. Dwayne Wade’s rookie season (stupid shot charts only going back to 2004-05) he hit 37.1 percent on jumpshots according to 82Games. He was mainly a finisher at the rim but has evolved into a deadly jumpshooter. It seems very reasonable for Westbrook to do the same.
This year though he added the deadly mid-range jumper and he’s turned into one of the best scorers in the league. He took 36.1 percent jumpshots and hit 43.3 percent of them. What’s to say a few offseasons of hard work and Westbrook won’t be there? With his rapid improvement this year, what’s to say he can’t get there next year? Isn’t that a scary (awesome) thought?
Rondo’s rookie season. He almost exclusively finishes in the paint. He basically had no jumpshot. Compare that to this season in which he shot over 50 percent.
Rondo averaged 11.6 ppg and 8.1 apg this season. And while I don’t really like the Rondo/Westbrook comparison because Westbrook is a much more dynamic scorer, in terms of lacking outside games, they compare nicely. But this past year, Rondo had much better jumpshooting numbers and he took a lot more of them. The thing about Westbrook is he wasn’t shy to take an open outside jumper. In fact, he was kind of told to by Scott Brooks and the staff. While Rondo only took about 21.7 percent jumpshots this year and just 18.2 percent his rookie season, once again Westbrook took 31.3 percent jumpers. Rondo would consistently pass up a decent outside shot. Westbrook rarely did. Shot selection and decision making is partly the issue for Russell, but also just making the open look is the main thing. He can make those shots. It’s just a matter of actually doing it.
Honestly, looking at Westbrook’s chart, a jump shot would make him absolutely lethal. But more than anything, he just needs to finish at the rim. So many times he’d get there – sometimes a little out of control – and not finish the play. So while Rondo and Parker are in that high fifties percentile close in, Westbrook was at 45 percent. Move Westbrook into the 50 percent range and he’s a 43-45 percent shooter, which is pretty dang good. In close, Rondo was 48 percent his rookie season and went up to 53 percent in his second season and then up to 57 percent this year. If we had Parker’s chart from his rookie year, I think it would be in that 45-50 percent range too. I have no doubt that Westbrook will do the same once everything starts to slow down for him. But a consistent jumpshot – oh boy. That’s just icing. Then I think we might be looking at season’s like Parker’s this year. And add that in with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green and well, I need to go to the bathroom.