Oklahoma City Thunder

Why Russell Westbrook's Shot-Chucking Won't Impact OKC Thunder Playoff Success

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 20:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder takes a free throw against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on January 20, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Thunder 121-118 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIApril 19, 2013

Throughout five NBA seasons, Russell Westbrook has been widely criticized for being a shot chucker. A criticism that can be validated by Westbrook’s career 43.2 percent shooting from the field and 30.2 percent shooting from three-point range. However, his negative reputation shouldn’t hinder the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder this postseason.

Yes, Westbrook’s career shooting percentages leave a lot to be desired. That’s especially true when compared with teammate Kevin Durant, who just put up a historic 50-40-90 season. That is, shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the free-throw line. But even when Westbrook hoists up numerous shots, the Thunder tend to have success.

During the regular season from 2010-2013, the Thunder are 58-27 when Westbrook takes 20 or more shots; OKC was 14-6 in 2010-11, 23-11 in 2011-12 and 21-10 this season.

Admittedly, Oklahoma City’s playoff success has been a bit murkier when Westbrook attempts 20 or more shots. OKC was just 3-7 in 2011, but they eclipsed the .500 mark last year with a 6-4 record in games when Westbrook shot 20 or more times.

Of course, five of those 11 total losses came against the eventual NBA champions (Dallas in 2011 and Miami in 2012). Also, Westbrook can’t exactly be blamed for his phenomenal 43-point outburst in a loss against the Miami Heat in the finals, when he shot a torching 20-of-32 from the field (62.5 percent).

It’s true that OKC can’t afford to see shots like this from Westbrook in the postseason:

However, Westbrook is the second-best player on the roster, a phenomenal athlete and a volume scorer. His role will be even more important in 2013 now that James Harden suits up for the Houston Rockets.

Without Harden’s offensive firepower off the bench to lean on, Westbrook and Durant will have to carry the load. If Westbrook plays timid on offense (something we may never see), OKC will struggle.

Westbrook will continue to receive criticism for his high shot totals until he helps lead OKC to a championship.

However, via Bill Simmons who coined the 10 percent theory for Westbrook, for the 10 percent of the guy critics would like to change, there’s still 90 percent of Westbrook that’s better than the vast majority of NBA players.

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