OKC Thunder: What Russell Westbrook must improve in his game

(Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

2. Sharpen up free throw shooting

I want to start off by first admitting how weird it is to be writing about how Westbrook needs to work on his free throw shooting.


Well, because Westbrook has traditionally been a very good free throw shooter. In fact, he’s shot 80.1 percent from the charity stripe for his career.

For some strange reason, that part of his game completely fell off the cliff this season and it was hard to explain why. You can’t help but think it’s all in his head.

We saw early signs of it in his 2017-18 campaign. Russ finished that year shooting just 73.7 percent, down from the career-high 84.5 percent he shot in 2016-17.

He shot 65.6 percent from the charity stripe this season. That percentage was not only a career-low, but it was also one of the worst free throw shooting percentages in the entire league.

According to Basketball-Reference, Westbrook ranked right there at the bottom with Andre Drummond (59 percent), Steven Adams (50 percent) and yes, Ben Simmons (60 percent), just to name a few.

Poor free throw shooting could turn him into a liability at the end of close games. That absolutely can’t happen. Russ gives OKC the best chance to win, so benching him at the end of games because he’s a liability at the line would be unacceptable.

Call it the yips, call it a mental breakdown — whatever you want to call it, Russ must work on it tirelessly in the offseason. The last thing the Thunder need is a dynamic point guard who can’t knock down his free throws when it counts.