Russell Westbrook is Similar to Derrick Rose?

On Tuesday – in the midst of my daily scan of TrueHoop – I came across the following item in the daily bullets:

Per minute, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose have very similar numbers.

Having spent a bit of time looking at each player’s numbers this year, I found this statement to be a bit surprising.  So I followed the link, which took me to The Thunderworld. And there I found the following column.

The potential impact of Russell Westbrook

Within this column were these sentences.

As I was writing this and looking at other players, I think I found my comparison. Russell Westbrook reminds me most of Derrick Rose – as crazy as that is. Rose is clearly on track to superstardom, but Westbrook really isn’t getting the pub. And he’s having a darn fine rookie campaign. The biggest tick on Westbrook is field goal percentage. He shoots just 35 percent from the field and 26 percent from three whereas Rose hits almost 49 percent from the field and almost 37 percent from three. But like I said, let that jumper come and Westbrook is an All-Star waiting to happen. Mark it.

Let me walk through my reaction to this analysis.

  • Let me say first… I understand fans in Oklahoma are excited. Your team has only existed for a few weeks, and I certainly don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.
  • That being said, although I may not want it to rain, I think the Westbrook picture is a bit cloudy. In other words, I have a hard time concluding that Westbrook is having a “darn fine rookie campaign.” And the reason behind my reluctance is found in the above cited column. Westbrook is currently shooting 35% from the field. According to Basketball-Reference.com (see link on the right), of the NBA players who have already attempted 200 field goals, only Ron Artest has a lower level of shooting efficiency from the field.
  • The column states that if Westbrook didn’t shoot so poorly, he would be an All-Star. Although that might be true, it led me to think that the same logic could apply to a few other athletes. For example, Dontrelle Willis – who walked 35 batters in 24 innings this year – could have been a great pitcher in 2008 if he knew how to throw strikes. Or Daunte Culpepper – who has thrown six interceptions in his first 91 pass attempts as a Lion – could be a great quarterback if he only stopped throwing passes to the other team. In other words, all athletes who play badly would be better if they only played better.
  • In looking at Westbrook we need to keep two questions separate. First, there is the issue of how well Westbrook has played so far. And on that count, the conclusion has to be “not so good”. When we look at Wins Produced, we see that Westbrook is currently on pace to produce just 1.4 wins; while posting a 0.017 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes]. In contrast, Rose is on pace to produce 10.2 wins with a 0.157 WP48.  The average mark is 0.100, so at this point Rose could be considered “good” while Westbrook is… okay, he’s not having a “darn fine rookie season.” (by the way – just to connect back to my last post — Greg Oden currently has a 0.253 WP48, so he is having a “darn fine rookie season”).
  • Beyond the issue of how good Westbrook has been is the question of how good Westbrook will be in the future. It’s certainly true that if Westbrook starts to hit his shots that his value will rise. And that might happen in the future. Then again, it’s also possible it won’t happen. Although we don’t know if (or when) Westbrook will become a “good” player, we should all be able to agree that a player shooting 35% from the field is not having a particularly good season so far.

Although Westbrook has clearly struggled, three other rookie point guards are having a “darn fine season.”  And as Table One indicates, this trio includes Rose, Mario Chalmers, and George Hill.  

Table One: The Rookie Point Guards after December 1, 2008

It’s important to remember that Table One only tells us how well these players have played after the first month of their NBA careers. Obviously our sample is quite small and it’s certainly possible that the performance of these players will change over time.  But how these players will change is not the point of this story.  The point being made is that we need to be able to separate how a player is today and how he might be in the future. 

And just to repeat… Today, Westbrook is clearly struggling as an NBA player. And that’s not what we would say about Derrick Rose (although I still think Oden is doing a bit more).

– DJ

The WoW Journal Comments Policy

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.

Comments are closed.