OKC Thunder: Reggie Jackson needs to toe the free throw line more

For as much as Jackson is viewed as sort of a Russell Westbrook Lite, drawing fouls is still an area in which he falls woefully short of replicating Westbrook's production.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: January 3, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Seems we learn more about Russell Westbrook's impact on the Thunder every game he sits.

The latest lesson is his value as a foul shooter.

Without its star point guard, Oklahoma City's offense has deteriorated to a level slightly above New York and just behind Cleveland's wretched outfits. The Thunder is averaging 12.2 fewer points without Westbrook than it did with him in the lineup.

And a decrease in free-throw attempts has emerged as part of the problem.

Oklahoma City shot 26.1 free throws per game in 21 games with Westbrook in the lineup. That rate would currently rank the Thunder fourth. But in seven games this season without Westbrook, the Thunder has dipped to 22.7 foul shots per game, a rate that would rank OKC 16th.

Perhaps more worrisome is how Kevin Durant is shouldering the load of the team's foul shooting without Westbrook. Seventy-four of the Thunder's 159 free-throw attempts in games without Westbrook have been attempted by Durant. That's 47 percent.

While the downward trend is a team-wide issue, the solution seemingly must start with Westbrook's replacement, third-year guard Reggie Jackson.

For as much as Jackson is viewed as sort of a Westbrook Lite, drawing fouls is still an area in which he falls woefully short of replicating Westbrook's production.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks before Thursday's game against Brooklyn chatted with Jackson about this very topic.

“That's the next part of his game is getting to the free throw line,” Brooks said.

It's shocking how little Jackson gets there given his attacking style and knack for knifing into the teeth of defenses, where 45 percent of his shots come from within eight feet, according to nba.com/stats.

Jackson is averaging a paltry 1.9 attempts, a career high but one that makes a mockery of his 90.2 percent success rate from free throw range.

Westbrook, by comparison, averages 6.3 foul shots for his career. He sits at an even six in 25 games this season. For his career, Westbrook is an 81.3 percent foul shooter, and he was connecting on 79.3 percent this season.

Additionally, Westbrook put teammates on the foul line.

According to NBA.com's SportVu player tracking data, Westbrook averages one free throw assist per game. A free throw assist is any pass that leads to a teammate getting fouled while shooting, not making the shot but making at least one free throw. Westbrook is tied with Denver guard Ty Lawson for second in the league in the category. Minnesota's Ricky Rubio holds a narrow lead for the league's best at 1.1 per game.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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