Just in case you weren’t excited enough about the start of the NBA season and the return of the Thunder, along comes this tidbit from SI.com’s Chris Mannix to get you even more fired up about what could be in store for guard Russell Westbrook this year.
Mannix caught up with renowned basketball trainer Rob McClanaghan, who Westbrook works out with along with Chicago guard Derrick Rose in the off-season. In providing an update on Westbrook’s development, McClanaghan quite possibly single-handedly raised expectations for Westbrook as he enters his fourth season. First, McClanaghan discussed how developing Westbrook’s pull-up jumper was a point of emphasis.
Every day, McClanaghan ran Westbrook through pull-up drills. First, he would start at the opposite baseline. Then from ¾ court. Then from halfcourt. When Westbrook got to the foul line, he would stop on a dime, pull up and shoot. “Michael Jordan had a great pull-up shot,” McClanaghan said. “All the great guards did. Before, Russell would drift sideways when he took that shot. He has corrected that.”
The next focus area is something that absolutely increases my anticipation to see Westbrook this season seeing as how it’s something I suggested Westbrook adopt nine months ago — a floater!!!
In addition to the pull-up, McClanaghan and Westbrook worked on a floater. While Westbrook is spectacular at finishing at the rim, he shot a career-low 26.6 percent from three-to-nine feet out, according to Hoopdata.com. Post moves were emphasized, too. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds Westbrook has superior size for his position. With McClanaghan, Westbrook worked on a variety of power moves and turnaround shots. “He’s so strong that he can bump a defender and create space for his shot,” McClanaghan said. “And if he doesn’t, he can hang in the air longer than pretty much any guard out there.”
I’m on record of saying Westbrook’s pull-up game has improved dramatically since he entered the league three years ago. Still, there is no doubt about it that Westbrook had a tendency to lean and drift on his release. If that’s now straightened out, he will only be an even better mid-range shooter. As for the floater, it’s going to help Westbrook avoid some of the punishment that he receives by bulldozing down the lane trying to take it hard to everyone. It’s a deceptive shot that can keep Westbrook healthy.
The next step in Westbrook’s progression, in my opinion (and assuming he’s got these things down), is a better change of pace. But you can’t get everything down in one offseason, no matter how long it lasts?
Besides, I don’t even want to think about what Westbrook will be capable of when he learns to play with better pace. That’s too scary of a thought.