Surprising stat shows value of LeBron James-Russell Westbrook partnership

The Los Angeles Lakers have found a solution to their poor outside shooting. It’s Russell Westbrook and LeBron James attacking the rim.

Los Angeles is dead last in made 3-pointers this year, but they’ve managed to score the sixth-most points in the league by attacking the basket, particularly when their super sixth man comes in the game.

When James and Westbrook share the court, the Lakers are relentless at going to the basket. 

According to the Dunc’d On NBA podcast, Westbrook-James lineups take a whopping 46% of their shots at the rim (lineup stats via Cleaning The Glass). For comparison, the league average is 30-31%, meaning that the James-Westbrook combo is getting point-blank shots 50% more than a typical team. 

On the team level, only Oklahoma City and Charlotte take more shots in the restricted area.

And they convert on 72% of those attempts, which is highly efficient even before you consider that many of those attempts result in and-ones. 

That’s how the James-Westbrook duo has a +10.7 net rating when they share the floor this year, even with both players shooting under 30% from beyond the 3-point arc.

Unfortunately, James and Westbrook don’t do as well together when Anthony Davis is on the floor — perhaps having three sub-30% 3-point shooters lets opponents pack the paint too much. 

And it could be a cause of the Lakers’ recent late-game struggles. When James and Westbrook are closing games together, they’re relying on drives to the basket and hoping for foul calls.

Still, it’s proof that Westbrook does have a lot of value to this Lakers team as the trade deadline approaches.

 And in a league full of teams bombing away from deep, it’s nice to see one old-school (and just plain old) team embracing the 2-pointer.


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