Russell Westbrook and his shot selection/decision making (especially late in games) have been a hot topic for much of this series against the Memphis Grizzlies. While Kevin Durant is at fault at times, Westbrook has made poor decisions in terms of shot selection from time to time. Maybe the biggest problem that Westbrook has is when he settles for that midrange jumper instead of getting to the rim.
With the Grizzlies and their fantastic defense, you can't expect Westbrook to break down his man and get to the rim time after time, which is why Westbrook and the Thunder need to try and come up with a way to get him the ball close to the rim. My suggestion? Post Westbrook up.
In limited opportunities this series, Westbrook has had some success posting up, scoring six points on five total post up possessions (1.20 Points Per Possession) on 60% shooting. With the much smaller Mike Conley defending him, Westbrook can easily use his strength to back him down and then use his athletic ability to finish at the rim:
On this play, Westbrook makes the catch from the baseline, waits for the clear out, and backs down Conley with two power dribbles. Once he gets into the paint, Westbrook rises over him, turns and knocks down the shot in the paint.
The two plays above make it pretty obvious that Mike Conley can't really cope with Westbrook when he turns his back and posts him up, backing him down from almost out by the three point line and getting into the paint rather easy.
On the first post-up opportunity of the clip, Westbrook gets the ball in the corner, backs Conley to the block, and once he gets to the spot, he turns along the baseline and hits the jumper. The double comes, but because Westbrook is able to get to his spot so easily, it isn't effective at all.
On the second post-up opportunity, Westbrook takes the basketball up along the sideline, waits for the clearout, and just backs Conley down again. Conley, unable to keep Westbrook from backing him down, tries to flop but doesn't get the call.
I am actually very surprised that we haven't seen these post-up opportunities for Westbrook more late in games, especially with the Thunder's difficulty creating good shots. He is just able to get to the block so easily, that it would force Memphis' hand. They will either have to switch defenders or take Conley out of the game, and now they are at a disadvantage.
If the Thunder was running an offense late, it would be one thing. However, they don't, so why not instead of a Westbrook isolation at the top of the key, have him bring the ball down along the sideline, and back Conley down?
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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