Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook hopes he's at turning point of his shooting slump

OKC's star guard shot the basketball as well as he has all season on Saturday at Houston. And he's got to start somewhere if he is to break out of his surprising shooting slump.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: December 30, 2012
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Russell Westbrook on Saturday at Houston shot the ball as well as he has all season.

Of course, given the start Westbrook has had to his year, that's not saying a whole lot.

Still, he's got to start somewhere if he is to break out of his surprising shooting slump.

He's hopeful the Thunder's 124-94 win over the Rockets will be his turning point.

“I felt comfortable,” Westbrook said after the game. “This is probably the first night all year I shot the ball well. But I got to put two games together.”

That's something Westbrook has struggled to do all season. For every precise shooting performance he's had, Westbrook has had three subpar showings. As a result, he's shooting just 40.3 percent this season, barely above the career-low 39.8 percent he shot as a rookie.

Against the Rockets, Westbrook scored a game-high 28 points on 11 of 22 shooting. It was only the first time since Dec. 4 that Westbrook has shot at least 50 percent from the field and just the sixth time this season that he's reached that percentage.

The key was Westbrook finishing at the rim. Seven of his 11 made field goals were layups. On the season, though, Westbrook has converted just 51 percent of his shots in the restricted area, according to NBA.com/stats. Westbrook's career low in that location is 47 percent, which came during his rookie season, according to hoopdata.com.

Elite point guards like Westbrook should hover around 60 percent from in close. Chris Paul, for instance, shoots 61 percent from the restricted area. Tony Parker is at 59 percent. Rajon Rondo is connecting on 58 percent.

Last season, when Westbrook shot a career-best 45.7 percent, he connected on 59 percent of his shots in the restricted area.

What makes Westbrook's tendency to whiff on layups such a burden is that's where the majority of his offense historically comes from. Nearly 37 percent of his shot attempts this season are in the restricted area. But by not finishing, and not getting as many calls to get to the free throw line, Westbrook's shooting percentage has plummeted.

Another issue has been Westbrook's reliance on the medium-range shot. His pull-up jumper has been a deadly weapon that has developed rapidly, but Westbrook has had far too many moments when he's settled for his go-to shot too quickly. The transition pull-up on an unfavorable fast break stands out most. Those types of shots account for more than 27 percent of Westbrook's attempts, but he's knocking down just 35 percent from the mid-range area. Players like Parker, Paul and Cavs guard Kyrie Irving are all shooting better than 45 percent from that spot.

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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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