Does the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook take too many three-pointers?


(Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Russell Westbrook has been dominant for the Oklahoma City Thunder this postseason. He has scored at least 23 points in all but two games and is averaging 8.0 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

“Like I said many times, Russell plays hard and he plays to win the game,” Thunder Coach Scott Brooks said. “And his leadership has really taken off the last three or four years.”

Let Westbrook be Westbrook” has some perks, but it also has a downside.

He’s incredibly athletic (he’s fast and he can jump), has good size for his position, is utterly fearless, possesses good court vision, has strong body control and a quick release and — most importantly — gives zero damns about what the right play would be at any given moment. Now, think about his basketball shortcomings. He’s prone to making bad decisions with the ball (see; zero damns given) and he’s not a top deep shooter.

The NBA as a whole hit 36 percent of three-pointers taken during the regular season and 35 percent in the playoffs. Westbrook is 19 for 68  (27.9 percent) from beyond the arc this postseason and hasn’t shot above league average anywhere on the hardwood from three-point range. However, despite his below-average shooting, Westbrook makes 5.2 three-point attempts per game, the third most among players not yet eliminated.


Russell Westbrook 3-Point Field Goal Percentage during 2013-14 Playoffs

Having Westbrook take so many three-pointers appears to be costing Oklahoma City points. He makes 1.8 three-point attempts per 48 minutes of postseason play, thus creating 5.4 points per 48. However, Westbrook has created 24.5 points per 48 off assists — only the Clippers’ Chris Paul has created more off the pass in the 2014 playoffs (3.16). The next highest is Clippers guard Darren Collision (13.9). Westbrook is also the highest on the Thunder by a wide margin.

It’s fine to “Let Westbrook be Westbrook,” but perhaps the Thunder should limit that to anywhere other than beyond the arc.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.

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Collin Hager · May 17, 2014