Russell Westbrook has undoubtedly been a polarizing figure during his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers and throughout his illustrious career. Some believe that his turnovers and poor shot selection are the root cause of many of the team’s issues while some say that he’s actually played better than expected.
Statistically, the turnovers absolutely have been an issue, though. He leads the Lakers in turnovers per game — with a 1.5 turnover gap between him and LeBron James — and is second in the entire NBA in that category. Only James Harden has coughed up more possessions than Westbrook.
Even still, Frank Vogel and James are not turning their back on the Lakers star guard. But James recognized that the turnovers need to come down following a 9-turnover night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Just his presence, obviously. His presence on the floor helps us. Obviously he was kicking himself a lot tonight with his turnovers, especially in the first half. He cleaned it up in the second half, he only had two in the second half, and it resulted in us being able to get shots.
“When we get shots, we’re a really good team. What’s really hurt us this year is when we turn the ball over a lot and we’re not able to set our defense where we’re really good in the half-court,” James said. “Teams run on us so us being able to take care of the ball in the second half was key for us getting this win tonight. The ball is in his hands a lot, the ball is in my hands a lot so it starts with us two just being able to take care of the ball and we did that.”
Vogel also came to Westbrook’s defense to say that the turnovers are already starting to decrease, even with some bad performances mixed in.
“I think he’s gotten better,” Vogel said. “I think we’ve seen that over the course of the last three, four, five weeks. Had a tough night tonight but he’s improving and we’re evolving offensively. I think guys are in different spots and some of that is the pieces moving around him, not just him.”
Westbrook’s high average turnovers can be largely attributed to the first month of the season. During the team’s first 14 games, Westbrook averaged 5.5 turnovers per game while that number is down to 4.4 per game since. While getting below four turnovers per game would be nice, improvement is definitely happening.
The Lakers are 28th in turnovers per game as a team, showing that it goes beyond just Westbrook. Everyone on the roster needs to do a better job taking care of the ball. Unlike the Golden State Warriors, who rank 29th in the same category, they are not at a place where they can win consistently in spite of their mistakes.
Perhaps they’ll get to that point with better health and more time together on the court, but they can’t rely on it. decreasing turnovers is one of the top priorities for the Lakers to see significant improvement before the postseason.
Westbrook addresses turnovers
Westbrook was asked about his turnovers, and in a response that went viral, the Lakers guard essentially shut down the idea that turnovers are ruining his impact.
“I disagree with the point that the game wasn’t going my way,” Westbrook said. “My game is not predicated on shots or if I turn the ball over. If I miss some shots, that’s part of the game. I’m allowed to miss shots. I can do that. Like any other player, I can do that.
“I can turn the ball over too. I can do that, that’s all a part of the game. But when you watch a basketball game and figure out what impact is, making the right plays, boxing out, rebounding, whatever that may be, making the right play, making the right reads. That’s all about being a basketball player.”
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