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Friday's notebook: Russell Westbrook's outside shooting woes

Rockets guard struggling to hit jumpers as we dig into 5 noteworthy stats

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

Happy Friday! We are 30% through the 2019-20 NBA season. Here are some things of note as we head into the Week 8 weekend.

Westbrook’s shot

Russell Westbrook’s jump shot remains broken. On shots from outside the paint this season, Westbrook has a field goal percentage of 29.4% and an effective field goal percentage of 35.3%. Both are the lowest marks of his career and, among 144 players who have taken at least 100 shots from outside the paint (not including shots from the backcourt), they rank 140th and *143rd.

Lowest effective FG%, shots outside the paint
Mid-Range 3-point range TOTAL
Player FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FG% eFG%
Jordan Poole 13 52 25.0% 29 118 24.6% 24.7% 33.2%
Russell Westbrook 38 105 36.2% 26 113 23.0% 29.4% 35.3%
Cam Reddish 6 25 24.0% 24 89 27.0% 26.3% 36.8%
Jimmy Butler 12 50 24.0% 21 65 32.3% 28.7% 37.8%
Rui Hachimura 30 70 42.9% 9 43 20.9% 34.5% 38.5%
Jabari Parker 8 29 27.6% 26 92 28.3% 28.1% 38.8%
Julius Randle 16 42 38.1% 23 88 26.1% 30.0% 38.8%
Anthony Davis 35 110 31.8% 26 78 33.3% 32.4% 39.4%
Ricky Rubio 15 48 31.3% 21 70 30.0% 30.5% 39.4%
Nikola Jokic 29 66 43.9% 22 91 24.2% 32.5% 39.5%
Minimum 100 FGA from outside the paint

Does not include backcourt shots

Through Dec. 12, 2019

While the Rockets have the league’s third-ranked offense, they’ve scored 11.7 more points per 100 possessions with Westbrook off the floor (120.0) than they have with him on the floor (108.3). In 346 minutes with James Harden on the floor without Westbrook, they’ve scored 121.0 per 100.

With Westbrook off the floor, the Rockets can obviously have a better 3-point shooter for Harden to pass to. Four of their other perimeter players — Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore, Austin Rivers and Thabo Sefolosha — have shot worse than the league average (35.6%) from 3-point range, but they’ve all been better than Westbrook (23.0%).

Still, when you look at the numbers of other players in the minutes that Harden has been on the floor with and without Westbrook, what stands out is the 3-point shooting of Danuel House and P.J. Tucker. With both Harden and Westbrook on the floor, those two have combined to shoot 46-for-127 (36%) from 3-point range. With only Harden on the floor, House and Tucker have combined to shoot 30-for-54 (56%) from beyond the arc.

Maybe Westbrook’s presence hurts the Rockets’ spacing and makes the others’ shots more contested, but probably not to the tune of 20 percentage points. So we can expect a reduction in that on-off differential going forward.

Westbrook doesn’t necessarily have to shoot from the outside to take advantage of the extra attention that opposing defenses have been paying to James Harden of late. A defense that doubles or bends toward Harden will have seams which Westbrook can attack.

And on a couple of late possessions against Sacramento on Monday, that’s exactly what he did.

Westbrook isn’t the best finisher at the rim, either. Only once in his career (last season) has he shot better than the league average in the restricted area. But his shots in the paint (at 55% this season) have been a lot more valuable than his shots from outside (1.10 vs. 0.71 points per attempt).

Over the last four games, Westbrook has taken 57% of his shots in the paint, up from 48% through his first 18 games. He’s obviously aware of how poorly he has shot from the outside, and maybe he’s making a conscious effort to get to the basket more.

Westbrook has yet to play in both games of a back-to-back and will likely miss one of the Rockets’ two games this weekend. They’re in Orlando Friday night (7 ET, League Pass) and home against the Pistons on Saturday (9 ET, League Pass). The Magic rank 4th in the (lowest) percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from the restricted area (29.5%), while the Pistons rank 24th (35.0%), so having Westbrook sit the first game might be the better play.

Graham in the clutch

Devonte’ Graham did it again. For the second time this season, the 6-foot-1 guard came up big in the closing seconds of a Hornets win in New York.

At Madison Square Garden last month, Graham hit a game-winning 3 with 2.1 seconds left to beat the Knicks. And at Barclays Center on Wednesday, the second-year guard drained two jumpers to turn a tie game into a five-point win.

The first of those two tied Graham for the league lead in buckets to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. He already has as many 3-pointers to tie or take the lead in the final minute (he’s 2-for-4) as Kemba Walker had over his last two seasons with the Hornets (2-for-18).

Multiple baskets to tie or take the lead in final minute of 4th quarter or OT
Player FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3PT%
Bogdan Bogdanovic 3 4 75.0% 2 3 66.7%
Derrick Rose 3 4 75.0% 0 0 ***
Russell Westbrook 3 4 75.0% 0 1 0.0%
Lou Williams 3 4 75.0% 2 2 100.0%
Devonte’ Graham 3 5 60.0% 2 4 50.0%
Nikola Jokic 3 5 60.0% 0 0 ***
Spencer Dinwiddie 3 7 42.9% 0 2 0.0%
Buddy Hield 3 8 37.5% 1 4 25.0%
Tyler Herro 2 2 100.0% 2 2 100.0%
Kevin Huerter 2 2 100.0% 1 1 100.0%
Marcus Morris Sr. 2 2 100.0% 2 2 100.0%
Ja Morant 2 3 66.7% 0 0 ***
Marcus Smart 2 3 66.7% 0 0 ***
Jayson Tatum 2 3 66.7% 1 2 50.0%
Karl-Anthony Towns 2 4 50.0% 1 3 33.3%
Danilo Gallinari 2 5 40.0% 2 3 66.7%
Damian Lillard 2 5 40.0% 0 3 0.0%
Through Dec. 12, 2019

As a whole, the league has shot 97-for-270 (35.9%), including 43-for-131 (32.8%) on shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute.

Amazingly, though he’s played in just 11 of the Nets’ 24 games, Kyrie Irving (1-for-7) is tied with teammate Dinwiddie and Jimmy Butler (1-for-7) for the second most attempts to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth or OT. Seventeen of the Nets’ 24 games (and 10 of their 13 wins) have been within five points in the last five minutes and 12 of those 17 (and six of their wins) have been within three points in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

The Hornets are 11-16, hanging around in the East playoff race because of their success in close games. Nine of their 11 wins have been within three points in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Their 11 wins have come by an average of 4.6 points, and they already have as many wins by five points or fewer (seven) as they had last season. Their 16 losses, meanwhile, have come by an average of 14.4 points.

More opportunities for drama await. The Hornets play twice this weekend, visiting the Bulls on Friday (8 ET, League Pass) and the Pacers on Sunday (5 ET, League Pass).

More minutes, more success

If you believe that second-year players can win the Kia Most Improved Award, then Graham might be your leading candidate.

After his 40-point performance in Brooklyn on Wednesday, he’s averaging 20.0 points and 7.6 assists per game, up from just 4.7 and 2.6 last season. Part of that is a huge increase in minutes (from 14.7 to 33.8), but Graham has also seen the league’s biggest jump in usage rate among players who played at least 500 minutes last season and have played at least 250 minutes this season.

Here are the top 12 in that regard, with Graham neither the only second-year player nor the only Hornet on the list …

Biggest jump in usage rate, 2018-19 to 2019-20
2018-19 2019-20
Player MIN Usg% MIN Usg% Diff.
Devonte’ Graham 676 16.6% 913 25.3% 8.7%
Pascal Siakam 2,548 20.5% 884 28.7% 8.2%
S. Gilgeous-Alexander 2,174 18.2% 837 24.9% 6.7%
Aron Baynes 821 14.7% 346 20.9% 6.2%
Luka Doncic 2,318 29.6% 803 35.8% 6.2%
Brandon Ingram 1,760 22.7% 707 28.6% 5.9%
Malcolm Brogdon 1,832 20.2% 664 25.8% 5.6%
Trae Young 2,503 27.7% 834 33.3% 5.6%
Terry Rozier 1,791 18.1% 890 23.4% 5.3%
Jayson Tatum 2,455 21.8% 821 27.1% 5.3%
G. Antetokounmpo 2,358 31.4% 758 36.7% 5.3%
Bismack Biyombo 782 12.8% 429 17.6% 4.8%
Minimum 250 minutes in 2018-19 & 500 minutes in 2019-20 (246 players)

Usg% = % of team’s possessions used (via FGA, TO & free throw trips) while on floor.

Through Dec. 12, 2019

An increase in efficiency

Along with jump in usage rate, Graham has been more efficient. Among 212 players that attempted at least 200 shots last season and have attempted at least 100 this season, he’s seen the second biggest jump in true shooting percentage.

Here are the top 12 …

Biggest jump, true shooting percentage
2018-19 2019-20
Player FGA TS% FGA TS% Diff.
George Hill 376 55.4% 140 70.7% 15.3%
Devonte’ Graham 216 45.9% 419 57.8% 11.8%
R. Hollis-Jefferson 487 46.4% 108 57.9% 11.5%
Marvin Williams 652 54.8% 127 65.3% 10.5%
P.J. Tucker 523 54.7% 169 65.2% 10.5%
Langston Galloway 587 53.4% 216 62.8% 9.4%
Hassan Whiteside 680 56.4% 249 65.2% 8.9%
Aron Baynes 223 56.7% 146 65.5% 8.8%
Nerlens Noel 276 60.8% 107 69.6% 8.7%
Josh Okogie 508 49.2% 142 57.9% 8.7%
Evan Fournier 1,069 53.6% 346 61.7% 8.1%
Rodney Hood 671 54.5% 172 62.5% 8.1%
TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))

Minimum 200 FGA in 2018-19, 100 FGA in 2019-20

Through Dec. 12, 2019

A slower Schroder

Dennis Schroder is a little further down both of the above lists, with a jump in usage rate from 23.8% to 26.0% and a jump in true shooting percentage from 50.8% last season to 54.6%.

To the eyes, Schroder seems to be playing a little bit slower in his second season in Oklahoma City. And player tracking data from Second Spectrum matches what the eyes have seen. This season, Schroder has averaged 4.34 miles per hour on offense, down from 4.54 last season and 4.87 the season prior.

Playing slower and more in control seems to be working for Schroder. Both his field goal percentage in the pant (52.7%) and his effective field goal percentage on shots outside the paint (50.8%) are career-high marks.

* * *

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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