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Russell Westbrook’s hot shooting off Lakers’ bench may not be sustainable, but his improved shot selection is

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In the era of Russell Westbrook in Los Angeles, it would be difficult to land on one low point. His press conference at the end of last season was an obvious choice, but he didn’t even make it to the court. There was no shortage of ugly jumpers or lethargic defensemen to choose from, but in a team whose hopes were dashed so quickly last season, there was not a single crystallizing moment on the floor that could be called the bottom for Westbrook.

No, if you were going to pick one single moment to embody all of Westbrook’s worst tendencies, you had to pick the moment that happened this season when the Lakers clung to a 0-2 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers. . The Lakers led by a full eight points in the fourth quarter, but with 27.3 seconds left, that lead was reduced to one point. So, naturally, Westbrook made an ill-advised middle-range shot at the start of the shot clock. He is brick.

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Westbrook later explained that he tried to give the Lakers a two-to-one chance, but from a strategic standpoint, the value of this was limited by their advantage. Either way, if the Lakers didn’t hit a 3-pointer, the Blazers would have at least one ball possession to score, so the optimal play would be to find a good shot and force Portland to hit a 3-pointer to tie. check. game, instead of giving them the opportunity to win a 2-pointer. Last season, Westbrook only made 38.3 percent of his average looks. It’s no exaggeration to call Westbrook’s mid-range shot one of the least effective shots in all of basketball.

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Westbrook has heard this message for years. He finally managed to internalize it after that one moment that happened in the last game he started as the Lakers. Westbrook has since retired from the bench. And since then, Westbrook has almost completely eliminated middle-range shots from his diet.

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The life-changing mid-range shot against Portland was the last he managed in 14 full days. In his first four games off the bench, Westbrook didn’t make a single shot from middle range. Since then, he has won four in two games, giving him a 0.67 per game average since he became a reserve. That’s up from nearly three a game last season and a career-high of over seven when he played for the Thunder. Westbrook’s success on the bench wasn’t a complete reimagining of his game, but it started when he gave up his worst shots.

However, this does not mean that he is only devoted to his best. Westbrook scores slightly more than he did as a starter, but he commits fewer fouls than a year ago and is still less likely to score in the restricted area (56.8%) than at his peak. Instead, Westbrook capitalized on one of the highest three-point streaks of his career.

Westbrook has only made one of his 12 3-pointers in three games with the Lakers this season…but he’s made 12 of the 27 3-pointers he’s made off the bench. The Lakers probably would have preferred Westbrook not to hit four and a half threes in a game, but it’s hard to argue with a 44 percent conversion rate, and out of those 27 attempts, 24 were considered either “open” or “wide open.” ” on NBA.com tracking data. If he’s going to do jump shots, at least they weren’t contested.

Ultimately, Westbrook’s career suggests he’s not going to keep hitting 3s at this pace. What happens after that is less clear. Perhaps he felt comfortable sacrificing mid-range jumps for a triple because he has so many of them. It’s also possible that Westbrook is less likely to stop mid-range because the Lakers give him more options as a ball carrier. Coming off the bench and playing fewer minutes with LeBron James, Westbrook averaged more dribbling per touch (4.93 compared to 4.28) and seconds per touch (5.35 compared to 4.89) than in last year as a starter. He plays a more familiar role, even if it happens at unfamiliar moments.

The sample we’re dealing with is still quite small, and over the past few days, Westbrook has gone from zero average attempts per game to two rather quickly. This trend is not set in stone. But after more than a year of pleading with Westbrook to change his offensive game to accommodate his current lineup, Lakers fans are finally beginning to see the slightest hint of compromise taking shape in how he approaches offense. At least Westbrook is trying to shoot better. The results, at least individually, have so far been mostly positive. The bar isn’t very high here, but if the shot in Portland was the lowest point of Westbrook’s time in Los Angeles, then his success as a bencher is the undisputed record of his tenure with the Lakers.



Source: www.cbssports.com

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