Oklahoma City Thunder: Why are Westbrook’s assists down?
Russell Westbrook’s assists are down and his turnovers are up. His overall play is up, I’d say. Shooting percentage up, scoring up. But his assists are down. Way down.
Westbrook averaged 8.2 assists per game last season. He averaged 8.0 assists per game his sophomore season. This year: 5.3.
That’s a major drop. And someone offered me a reason. No Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. The trade for Kendrick Perkins fortified the Thunder immensely, but it did not help anyone’s assists totals.
Green and Krstic were woeful inside defenders, but they could score. Krstic was a catch-and-shoot big man who was very solid in the pick-and-pop. Green could score a myriad of ways.
Suddenly, Westbrook was playing a ton of minutes with Perkins and Serge Ibaka, two wonderful players but whose strengths don’t lie in scoring, especially out of offensive flow. Suddenly, the Thunder starting lineup consisted of two defensive specialists (Perk and Thabo Sefolosha) and another who is getting that tag fast (Ibaka).
So let’s look at the numbers. On Feb. 24, 2011, the day the trade was made, Westbrook was averaging 8.5 assists.
For the next nine games, the Thunder played with Ibaka in the starting lineup but without Perk, who was recovering from a knee injury. Nazr Mohammed got much of the big-man minutes in Krstic’s absence. Nazr is a solid offensive player, nothing special. In those nine games, Westbrook averaged 8.1 assists per game. No big deal.
Then Gran Torino came on board and played down the stretch. In the 17 remaining regular-season games, Westbrook averaged 7.1 assists per game. So it was starting to dwindle.
In the playoffs (17 games), Westbrook averaged 6.4 assists, but keep in mind, playoff numbers typically go down for everyone, as the defense toughens. The year before, in six playoff games against the Lakers, Westbrook averaged 6.0 assists per game, after averaging 8.0 during the regular season.
And now we get to 2011-12, and Westbrook’s assist totals are way down, back to his rookie numbers (5.3). Can all of that be traced to the loss of Krstic and Green and the changing dynamic of the Thunder squad?
“I think our assist totals are down as a team,” said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks. True enough. The Boomers are averaging 18.1 assists per game. They averaged 20.4 assists per game last season.
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