The Truth Behind Russell Westbrook: He Hurts The Lakers With His Turnovers And Lack Of Defensive Effort

Russell Westbrook has been a polarizing player throughout his career. Some of the criticism he receives is for not playing defense and turning it over too much, which causes him to hurt the Lakers. But what if Russ was hurting our team because Kevin Durant’s retirement?

The “how old is russell westbrook” is a question that has been asked many times. The answer to the question, is that he is 31 years old.


Russell Westbrook is the 2021-2022 season’s quintessential love/hate player. Some people despise his style of play, while others praise his ferocity on the court.

Russell Westbrook’s game is difficult to grasp, to the point that many NBA players are unsure what to make of him. Karl-Anthony Towns, a Minnesota big man, chastised the Lakers’ new starting point guard last week before complimenting him.

Towns remarked in an online interview with Adin Ross, “He obviously wants numbers; he chases stats,” before adding, “I don’t care what anybody says, do you know how hard it is to earn a triple-double?” Towns then shifted gears again, stating, “I just believe he plays too fast at times.” He strives to be all things to all people.”

What is the truth about Russell Westbrook’s first season with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Is he a stat-cruncher who prioritizes his own success above the team’s?

Is it possible that the former Bruin’s astronomical stats are a benefit for the Purple and Gold?

After that, we’ll look at Russell Westbrook’s offensive and defensive skills to see whether he adds genuine value to the floor.

The Offense of Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook is a force to be reckoned with.

The Lakers lead the NBA in pace this season with 100.8 possessions per 48 minutes, compared to 16th out of 30 teams previous season. Russell Westbrook, without a doubt, has been the driving force behind the Purple and Gold’s transformation from a plodding squad to the league’s quickest enterprise.

But does Russell Westbrook’s brisk play truly benefit the Lakers?


With 21.5 transition chances per game, the Los Angeles Lakers are second in the NBA, but they only score 1.09 points per opportunity, putting them in the 48th percentile. Genuine Lakers supporters understand why their team is in the bottom half of the league in transition buckets: they turn the ball over too much in the open court. In terms of transition turnover frequency, the Purple and Gold rank ninth, coughing up the ball 13.1 percent of the time.

Russell Westbrook is prone to rushing the ball up the floor and attempting to attack the hoop even when the opposition team is defending. He goes at hyper-speed all the time, a genuine tunnel-vision player who lacks the floor sense to know when to slow down and set up the Lakers half-court attack. He pushes things too far and makes unforced mistakes, and NBA fans are well aware of what happens when one player coughs up the ball in transition; it almost always leads to an easy score the opposite way.

Russell Westbrook has a lot of assists on his resume.

Russell Westbrook’s passing skill is undoubtedly the strongest aspect of his game. He is sixth in the league with 8.3 assists per game, which is rather outstanding. When you consider that he shares the court with LeBron James, who ranks 20th in the league with 6.6 assists per game, making Westbrook and LBJ the only tandem in the top-20, it’s clear that the LA native is finding his teammates with accurate passes.

The Purple and Gold average 17.4 wide open (no defender inside 6 feet) three-point attempts per game as a team. Russell Westbrook is responsible for a large portion of that shooting space.

Westbrook, who is 33 years old, still possesses a lightning quick first step. This season, he’s regularly flying past his defenders, collapsing opposing defenses, and creating space for his teammates from beyond the arc. The former Bruin is a selfless player who understands how to consistently hit the Lakers’ perimeter shooters in the chest for a deep shot.

The Lakers have seven regular rotation players—T. Ariza, A. Bradley, C. Anthony, A. Reaves, W. Ellington, L. James, and M. Monk—shooting better than league average from beyond the arc, thanks to Russell Westbrook’s superb drive and kick game.

With 20.9 points per game, Westbrook is sixth in the NBA in assist points produced. Due to injury and coronavirus procedures, the Lakers have gone through more perimeter players this season than any other team in the league, which makes Westbrook’s passing all the more impressive since he hasn’t been given the chance to develop a comfortable cadence with the lineup.

Russell Westbrook’s shooting percentages are deplorable.

This season, Russell Westbrook has struggled from afar. With a 30.2 percent average, he ranks 104th out of 118 qualifying guards who have attempted 3.5 three-point attempts per game. If you’re a fan of the NBA, you’re well aware that he can’t shoot from beyond the arc.

What you probably didn’t realize is that he’s been just as terrible near to the basket. Westbrook’s 5.8 shot attempts at the rack are hitting on fewer than 60% of the time.

In comparison to the other Western Conference top playmakers, Russell Westbrook’s shooting numbers from 0 to 3 feet are as follows:

– Russell Westbrook: 59.9% from zero to three feet

– Stephen Curry (from 0 to 3 feet): 58.6 percent

– Chris Paul (from 0 to 3 feet): 73.3 percent

– Donovan Mitchell (from 0 to 3 feet): 71.7 percent

– Ja Morant (from 0 to 3 feet): 68.4 percent

– Luka Doncic: 76.9% from zero to three feet

Compare him to the average starting point guard in the Western Conference.

– Monte Morris (starting point guard for the Denver Nuggets): 77.5 percent from 0 to 3 ft

– Dejounte Murray (from 0 to 3 feet): 71.4 percent

– D’Angelo Russell (from 0 to 3 feet): 61.5 percent

– De’Aaron Fox (from 0 to 3 feet): 69.85

Stephen Curry, the finest three-point shooter of all time, is the only playmaker he outshoots near the rim. The other setup men all hit at a far better rate than the Lakers point guard.

There are no statistics on how many open rim shots a player takes and misses. Still, it seems like Westbrook not only struggles to finish in the lane amid the trees, but he also misses at least two gimmies every game. It’s a heartbreaker for the whole team when a player misses a wide-open shot at the rim, particularly in a tight game.

Russell Westbrook Is An Overachiever When It Comes To Turnovers

Russell Westbrook leads the NBA with 4.8 turnovers per game.

Westbrook is joined in the top five in turnovers per game by James Harden, Luka Doncic, Paul George, and Trae Young, a who’s who of outstanding offensive weapons.

Westbrook’s turnovers are much more than those of the other top-five players. Harden, Doncic, George, and Young are the offensive focal points of their respective teams. They are consistently drawn into double teams and are always under pressure. Their team’s success is fueled by their gravitas. They are often required to make split-second judgments, which may result in a bad pass or a charge.

The Lakers’ offense does not revolve on Westbrook. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the targets of every opposing team’s game plan. The former Bruin commits a lot of unforced mistakes. If you watch a Lakers game, you’ll see him dribble the ball off his foot, pass the ball to no one, and, more recently, leap before swinging the ball, occasionally realizing he has no idea where his teammates are on the court.

Despite their turnovers, Harden, Doncic, George, and Young are very valuable to their teams’ performance, while Westbrook causes more harm than good on offense.

Here’s how it works:

– Estimated Plus/Minus for James Harden: +4.2, 95th percentile

– Luka Doncic’s EPM is +2.8, which places him in the 92nd percentile.

– Paul George’s EPM is +2.6, which puts him in the 90th percentile.

– Trae Young’s EPM is +4.3, which is in the 95th percentile.

– Russell Westbrook’s EPM is -0.7, which places him in the 57th percentile.

On the floor, Westbrook is known for moving with breakneck pace and acting before thinking. For the Lakers to succeed, he doesn’t have to go all out. He’d be better off staying in charge of the game and limiting his ineffective blunders.

The Defense of Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook doesn’t take many shots in the paint.

A defensive field goal attempt, according to the NBA’s official website, is “the number of shots attempted by an opponent while a player is defending the shot.”

“The number of times a defensive player closes out and raises a hand to challenge a shot before to its release” is how a disputed shot is defined.

Russell Westbrook makes 11.7 defensive field goal attempts per game, but only contests 3.6.

Consider this: Russell Westbrook defends over 12 shots per game, yet he barely raises his hand and contests a little more than three of them.

Those figures are indicting.

Pay close attention to Russell Westbrook’s defensive performance, and two things will stand out:

As a shooter launches, he seldom gets a hand up towards the ball (Lakers fans are nodding). Instead, he prefers to stand flat-footed and place his palm on the chin of his task.

He rarely closes out on a wide-open three-point shooter (Lakers fans are still nodding with a tear in their eyes). Westbrook finishes strong, but not on purpose. He generally veers toward the three-point line because he has to, like a 10-year-old slopping a sponge on his father’s vehicle, just enough soap to keep his grandfather from yelling at him, but no more.

Russell Westbrook enables his assignments to shoot 46.7 percent on average, which is one of the lowest numbers among the Lakers’ regular rotation players, and the Purple and Gold are 1.9 points poorer per 100 possessions on defense with their starting point guard on the court.

Russell Westbrook’s Rebounding Statistics Are Exaggerated

Russell Westbrook ranks fourth among NBA backcourt players with 8.1 rebounds per game. His statistics are inflated.

In today’s NBA, most head coaches don’t place a premium on offensive rebounding. In fact, practically every team emphasizes a “get back on D” mentality, which means players don’t rush to the basket for put-backs or offensive rebounds since doing so might expose them to a transition assault if they don’t lock down the board. After a shot attempt, most players run back to defense, prepared to lock down their rim.

To boost his rebounding stats, Russell Westbrook employs the “go back on D” technique. If you go to a Lakers game, you’ll witness him slugging it out with his teammates like a grizzly bear trying to catch a leaping salmon for the opportunity to grab an uncontested defensive rebound. If there are any Lakers players near the free board, Westbrook is likely to take it.

A few NBA clubs defy the trend and continue to compete for offensive boards. One such squad is the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Against the Timberwolves, Westbrook has struggled in the rebounding category.

Take a peek at:

Westbrook got three rebounds against the Timberwolves on January 2nd.

Westbrook collected four rebounds against the Timberwolves on December 17th.

Westbrook got 5 rebounds against the Timberwolves on November 12th.

There is value in Russell Westbrook’s 1.6 offensive rebounds per game, but there are 36 other guards in the league that average at least one offensive rebound per game. Westbrook is a strong rebounding guard, but he isn’t as good as his stats suggest. If you take away the uncontested freebies he snags every night, he’s probably closer to Lonzo Ball (5.4 RPG), which is respectable but nothing to write home about.

Russell Westbrook’s Defensive Statistics Aren’t Great

Russell Westbrook is rated in the 29th percentile on D by Dunks and Threes.

On the less enjoyable end, Westbrook’s defensive box plus/minus is -0.6, which means he’s more than half a point lower than a league average player.

In terms of defensive rating, he ranks 295th out of 558 players.

“Subpar defense,” the metrics scream from the screen.

Westbrook is a top athlete with the height and strength to be a lockdown specialist at 6-3, 200 pounds. On offense, he plays as hard as he can, rushing into the lane whenever he gets the opportunity and pushing the tempo for the Lakers on the break. Unfortunately, on the less glamorous side of the ball, he never gets beyond fourth gear.

Is Russell Westbrook a genuine asset on the court?

The Lakers tend to win games despite Russell Westbrook rather than because of him.

The most recent game between the Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves is a prime illustration.

Despite Westbrook’s nine turnovers and 0 for 5 shooting from beyond the arc, the Lakers prevailed 108-103. On defense, he only blocked three shots while the rest of the squad blocked 40, and he brought down three rebounds. With their point guard on the floor, the Lakers were outscored by 2 points overall, and he had the team’s third-worst net rating.

How many teams can win when their point guard tosses the ball away nine times, shoots 0.0 percent from beyond the arc, and challenges just three shots?

Not many.

Russell Westbrook is an excellent passer who puts pressure on opposing teams with his drives down the lane. His qualities, though, aren’t enough to compensate for his lack of defensive effort and unforced attack blunders.

Throughout the first half of the season, Russell Westbrook hasn’t provided consistent value to the Lakers. All he needs to do now is slow down, avoid making stupid errors, and focus more on the less enjoyable aspects of the game, and he’ll help the Purple and Gold go closer to championship contention.


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