Out of all the teams to have a slow start in the NBA so far, Oklahoma City raises most eyebrows. The Thunder are sitting at 1 – 4 and are ranked 27th in offense and 16th in defense (per ESPN). The injury to Robertson is their biggest concern and as he contributes mostly on the offensive end, you would expect their defensive ranking to be worse than the offensive one. To be clear, both are bad for a team that hopes to be a serious contender in the playoffs, but their offensive issues are a bigger surprise.
The thing is, OKC was never a really good shooting team but they managed to pull through mainly because the ridiculous usage rate of Westbrook who managed to put up big numbers. He would create so much havoc that opportunities for others would open up. This summer Westbrook had another knee procedure and that’s not good news for a player who’s entire game is predicated on wild athleticism. Westbrook was never the ultimate playmaker nor is he a good off-ball player. Or a decent off-ball player. Or a sub-par off-ball player. He basically just stands in a spot until he gets the ball.
And then we come to the shooting. Westbrook’s shot always looks a bit wild, as if he is too strong to shoot the ball, more like he is throwing it. The problem is he still flings it up a lot and simply because it sometimes goes in, he acts like a very good shooter. How bad is he? Among 125 players in NBA history to attempt over 2500 3-pointers, Russell Westbrook is 124th (per Basketball reference) with 31% shots made. The only player worse than Westbrook is Jerry Stackhouse. Here are some active players that rank better than Westbrook: Kemba Walker, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Love, Vince Carter, Nick Young, Marco Bellineli, Channing Frye. Can you imagine Westbrook passing up a decent shot to pass to one of these guys if they were on his team? Me neither.
With the new rules leading to scores exploding and more and more teams taking a lot of 3-pointers, OKC is lacking the shooting needed to capitalize on these trends. Add to that that your MVP had his MVP season with a usage of 45.8% (per Cleaning the glass) and you are in for a rough ride.
P.S. Yep, Steph is first with a ridiculous 43.8%. Klay is fourth with 42%. Good luck everyone else.