Lakers’ Darvin Ham is 100% right to sit Russell Westbrook in 4th quarter

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 02: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with head coach Darvin Ham during the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on December 02, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 02: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with head coach Darvin Ham during the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on December 02, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /
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Russell Westbrook has seen a bit of a resurgence with Los Angeles Lakers fans this season. After months of the fanbase demanding that the former MVP would get traded, Westbrook has embraced a sixth-man role with the team and has played quite well.

His overall averages have been down but the efficiency and quality of play have been up. That is all the Lakers needed out of Westbrook. The team did not need him to try and post a triple-double every night. They just needed him to play controlled, quality basketball.

The fanbase is actually starting to defend Westbrook because of his strong play this season. Most notably, fans have become frustrated with how Darvin Ham has handled Westbrook’s fourth-quarter role this season. Ham often removes Westbrook in key moments of the game, leaving the $47 million man on the bench.

This is where I disagree with the narrative. Westbrook is playing well in the chances that he is getting, yes, but Ham is 100% correct to put Westbrook on the bench during key moments late in games. The numbers do not lie.

Russell Westbrook is downright bad for the Lakers in the fourth quarter.

There is a reason why Darvin Ham sits Russell Westbrook down in key moments in the fourth quarter. Why? He has been really bad late in games all season. The eye test proves that to be the case and the numbers back it up as well.

Westbrook has the worst plus/minus of any player on the Lakers in the fourth quarter this season at -84. That is not a typo. In 152 fourth-quarter minutes, Westbrook has posted a -84 plus/minus. Plus/minus is not a comprehensive stat, but when you are -52 worse than the next worst player there is probably a correlation.

In the fourth quarter this season Westbrook is shooting 39.7% from the field and 20% from three. He has 17 turnovers, giving him a 4.0 turnovers per 36 minutes average in the fourth quarter. Westbrook already averages the most turnovers per 36 minutes in the league. You do not need that in the game when every possession matters.

That is without mentioning his poor defensive play in the fourth quarter as well. Sure, he will have some great moments like he did against the Bucks where he made a hustle play and dove for the basketball. But that play doesn’t even happen if Khris Middleton doesn’t fumble an open pass. Overall, the defensive output in key moments is negative for Westbrook.

When you factor in overtime it gets even worse. Westbrook’s plus/minus drops to -95. There are 237 players that have played at least 100 minutes in the fourth quarter and overtime this season. Of those 237, Westbrook ranks 237th in plus/minus.

How can you reasonably blame Darvin Ham for putting that on the bench in the most important moment of the game?