Russell Westbrook is one of the best point guards in his generation and a first-ballot Hall of Famer when it’s all said and done. His ability to dominate the game thanks to his athleticism is very special to watch because everything comes so easy for him. Westbrook can grab any rebound off the rim, handle the ball, and go coast to coast to the rim in just a few seconds better than any other point guard in the league. In NBA history, we have not seen a more athletic point guard.
Westbrook had a tremendous season last year, posting averages of. He was great during the regular season but his flaws became apparent once again when the playoffs came. As great as Westbrook is, he has many areas he needs to improve on if he ever wants to win an NBA title. There is a reason why Westbrook has not been back in the Finals since Kevin Durant left him, and his flaws have something to do with it.
Here are the traits Russell Westbrook needs to improve on if he wants to win an NBA title before he retires.
5. Using His Athleticism To Dominate On Defense
It is quite shocking how a player as physically dominant as Russell Westbrook doesn’t become one of the best defensive guards in the game. Russ can shut players down when he wants to, but he is often careless on defense and often chooses to play passing lanes instead of playing strict on-ball defense. Westbrook has not made a single All-Defensive Team which is unacceptable for a player of his gifts. While Westbrook doesn’t necessarily have to win the Defensive Player of the Year, he has the tools to be one of the best 2-way point guards of all time and should challenge himself accordingly.
Westbrook does so much on offense and on the boards that it would be unfair to expect perfection from a player like him. But Westbrook needs to be more consistent at locking up primary ball handlers because that will give him team the best possible chance to recover loose balls and allow Russ to run on the break. His defense could always improve, and so could his outside shooting.
4. Improve His Outside Shooting
Russell Westbrook will likely never become a knockdown shooter because that is just who he is (or isn’t). Since coming into the league, Westbrook has never shot above 34.3% from three, despite attempting a career 3.7 3-pt FG per game. Westbrook also has multiple seasons where he shot below 30% from three. His inconsistent shooting allows defenses to sag off him and forces him to take shots that quite often brick off the rim. When Westbrook has his jumper falling, he might be the most unstoppable player in the NBA. But that moment rarely ever happens.
Westbrook must improve his jump shooting if he wants to be an NBA Champion because he handles the ball too much to not be a decent shooter. If Westbrook can get his shooting percentage close to 35% from three for the rest of his career, he is setting himself up to be an unstoppable force on offense and a very versatile offensive threat with the ball every night.
3. Slow Down More Often
The beauty of Russell Westbrook is his passion for the game and his desire to leave it on the floor every single night. Russ doesn’t want to make friends, just wants to destroy his opponents and completely outwork them in terms of energy. While that is very respectable and he earns exceptional individual accolades because of it, Westbrook has never learned how to tone it down. Playing at 110% and full-throttle every second of every game is not good for his team nor his own body.
Westbrook often gets banged up because he tends to play too hard without ever slowing down and letting the game come to him. When he is not injured, he can be completely out of control. Instead of trying to be faster than everyone on the court, he can also try to be smarter. Westbrook clearly understands the game of basketball and he is an MVP caliber player for a reason, so slowing down allows him to choose when to be at a breakneck speed and when to make smart plays.
2. Focus On What He Does Best
Russell Westbrook is unstoppable when he explodes to the rim before the defense settles. He is also one of the best players in history at pushing the pace of play meaning he is a machine on the fast break. Westbrook must use his speed and strength at his position more often by taking players on and not settling for long outside jumpers. If Russ has a smaller defender on him, he must take him on the block and shoot over him. Westbrook did a great job at picking his spots last season, which is why he shot a career-high 47.2% from the field.
While improving his shooting is one of the keys to helping him become an NBA champion, he must still focus most of his efforts on continuing to pick his spots on the floor. Westbrook needs to attack the rim and make plays for others, and not always look to hold onto the ball and settle for jumpers. If Westbrook slows down a bit more, he can pick his spots for easy buckets or get open looks for teammates when he attacks the space on the floor.
1. Keeping Emotions In Check
Russell Westbrook is a very competitive player and his aggressive energy often gets the better of him. Russ can get in a zone where he sees nothing else on the floor except the rim, which causes him to lose control of himself to the detriment of his team. Westbrook’s athleticism makes the game come so easy for him, that he often mistakenly believes he is the best player on the floor. He gets too overconfident and too overzealous, resulting in poor decision making and too many turnovers in critical moments.
Westbrook has always been known as an inconsistent player in the clutch because he gets too emotional and does not let the game play out. All the legendary point guards such as Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and John Stockton knew how to keep cool under pressure and not let the game’s intensity get the better of them. If Westbrook wants to be mentioned with those names and finally be great enough to win an NBA title, he needs to learn how to be cool when it matters most.
Overall, Westbrook has a chance in Washington to be the man again without another ball-dominant scorer like James Harden. Russell Westbrook was traded after only one season after he did not look like a championship player with the Rockets. If Westbrook returns to his MVP form, the Wizards just might be the dark horse team to shock everyone in the East. Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, and Thomas Bryant are a lineup nobody wants to play against. Unless Westbrook can be the catalyst for a shocking Wizards title run, he must improve on some areas of his game to finally become a champion.