Wednesday, January 26 2022
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Russell Westbrook is going to be a lightning-rod topic all season. His fit on the Los Angeles Lakers has been questioned from the start, and in the early going there has been ample evidence to validate the pessimism. He’s shooting 21 percent from 3. His 96.8 points per 100 shot attempts is the worst mark of his career and ranks in the 29th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. So far, the Lakers have a negative point differential when he’s on the court. 

But it hasn’t been as bad as all that sounds. At the end of the day, Westbrook is averaging 19.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting just under 51 percent from two-point range, which is the second-best mark of his career. 

Per Cleaning the Glass, 47 percent of Westbrook’s shots are coming at the rim, which places him in the top tier of players at his position and registers as the second-highest frequency of his career. This, combined with the fact that his maligned mid-range attempts are down, is spectacular news. 

LeBron James, for one, likes what he sees from Westbrook. After Westbrook put up 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a win over the Rockets on Tuesday night, LeBron noted that Russ is “being himself over the last few weeks” while calling him, along with Derrick Rose, the “most explosive point guard in NBA history,” which is an indisputable fact. 

LeBron went on to note that for “special” players like Westbrook, the desire to want to fit in on a new team can actually be counterproductive, saying they instead need to “fit out.” 

In other words, great players need to play to their strengths and not worry about stepping on anyone’s toes or bending to the team. LeBron’s overall point is valid, but it’s tricky. Yes, Westbrook, and all great players, need to be appropriately selfish, but in the recent past what has gotten Westbrook in trouble is not canceling out his strengths by over-exposing his weaknesses. He hasn’t been able to consistently control his urge to jack up pull-up jumpers, specifically, and his commitment to moving without the ball hasn’t been a consistent thing. 

Good Russ and bad Russ haven’t added up to a net positive in a while. 

But give the man credit. He has been pretty good for the Lakers, and he’s largely doing it without getting in the way of the two best players in LeBron and Anthony Davis. Right now, offensively speaking, he’s complementing them pretty well, or at least as well as a terrible 3-point shooter with a natural instinct to prioritize his own offense can. 

Source: CBSSports.com

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