Would the Wizards Be Better Off Releasing Russell Westbrook?
Updated: Jan 25
With his current play style, Russell Westbrook is a detriment to his team.
How can Russ become an effective player again?
Russell Westbrook is a 9x All Star, 9x All-NBA, 2x Scoring Leader, 2x Assist Leader, and an MVP; he also receives an annual salary of around $41 million. Thus, one would assume that, even if he is not playing to the level of his contract, he is a valuable player that contributes to winning. However, this may be incorrect; the Wizards may perform better without him being on the team.
Let’s look at his basic shot chart, with the percentages being his field goal percentages in those locations.
As one can see, Westbrook shoots horribly everywhere except at the rim. This is a problem since only 24% of his shots are occurring at the rim, a career low. This is most likely due to him aging and starting to lose athleticism. Furthermore, over half his shots are taken in the midrange area, which is the least efficient shot location in basketball, especially for Westbrook.
However, Westbrook has never been an efficient scorer, as he has never had an effective field goal percentage over 50%. Therefore, he must be impacting the game in other ways that are contributing to winning, right? Not really. The teams effective field goal percentage and offensive rebound percentage are higher when he is not on the floor. Thus, he has a negative impact on the offense’s efficiency; the positive aspects of his game are not enough to overcome his bad shooting. Also, his high rebounding numbers are not leading to more team offensive rebounds, which is the rebounding statistic that matters the most.
One positive aspect is some key role players have a better effective field goal percentage when Westbrook is on the floor.
Westbrook still has the ability to make his teammates better due to his ability to drive into the paint, draw the defenses attention, and find open shooters or cutters. The highlight below is a perfect example. Notice how when he passes the pall there are three Bulls in the paint starring right at him. He then has the option to give the ball to Bryant for a dunk, or Advija for a wide open three. This is where Russ excels.
Clearly Westbrook is an inefficient shooter, but he is still a good finisher and playmaker. If he wants to remain an effective basketball player, he needs to change his game. He should start by significantly reducing his field goal attempts, basically cutting them in half. Right now, he attempts almost 20 shots a game, and this should be reduced to around 10, with no more than 5 coming outside of the paint. If he makes this change, and makes playmaking his primary focus, he will still not be worth the $41 million he makes, but he will become a more effective basketball player and will contribute more to winning. However, throughout his career, Westbrook has not shown the willingness to make changes to his game.
So, would the Wizards be better off cutting Russell Westbrook? It would probably not be a smart move at this point. Cutting him means losing him for nothing, and while not having him on the team would probably result in them winning more games, the Wizards would still be a bad team. Thus, the Wizards should hold on to Russ, and see if another team gets desperate and wants to trade for him. If a team proposes a semi-decent offer, the Wizards should do it immediately. However, the biggest problem with the Wizards is they are the worst defensive team in the NBA. They should consider moving a player like Bertans, who does not start, for a defensive upgrade.
Stats from: pbpstats.com, cleaningtheglass.com, and basketballreference.com