Guess who’s back? Russell Westbrook has been affected by injuries for three years and with the future of the Oklahoma City Thunder holding in limbo to Kevin Durant’s decision in 2016, the team could be headed directly to a trash fire.
But then Russ showed up and started scorching the earth. Granted it’s only 10 games into it, but he has a PER of 33.15, shooting 48.9% , three point percentage of 35.7%, 6.8 assists, 5.8 rebounds with an average of 25.8 ppg.
And he’s doing it with total slashing. A look at his Heat Map-
Almost entirely right at the basket. Compared to his previous shot chart, where Russell was still slashing but also more diverse. So what’s opening up the paint for him? Thabo Sefolosha is gone to join the Hawks and Kendrick Perkins is now coming off the bench. Steven Adams isn’t crazy athletic in the center spot, but he does move better than Perk. He also draws more defenders because he has something resembling an offensive game. Whereas previous defenders could leave Perkins on the regular, because his threat just wasn’t going to happen. Adams now demands at least some coverage, so the doubling has to go down.
So it’s possible that the new squad on the floor is just more tuned in to floor chemistry and letting Russell have his way. Given his stats about his shot range, they should keep letting him do it.
73 attempts at the rim shooting 61% with only 26% of those being assisted. Russell should be getting the nickname Nash the Slash if it wasn’t one of the more obscure and obnoxious reference I could make.
With Durant’s decision always looming and Scott Brooks coaching out of his mind so far, the day before Hanukkah the Thunder are one game out of the number eight spot of the playoffs. They have won six in a row, won seven of their last nine and beat the Cavaliers by nine points and put up 114 against the tough defense of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Keep your fingers crossed for health, but the Thunder might have crossed over into sneaky contender if they can keep the paint open for Westbrook.