Russell Westbrook’s time with the Lakers has come to an end, but he may not be done playing basketball in Los Angeles just yet.
After a year and a half of a disastrous marriage, the Lakers finally found a trade to end the Westbrook experiment, sending him to Utah along with their 2027 first round pick in a three-team deal that will net them D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota. It is a blockbuster trade in that it sends eight players to new teams, including some very big names like Westbrook, Russell, and Mike Conley, but it would still take quite the turnaround from either the Lakers or Wolves for this trade to play a significant role in who wins the Western Conference.
Still, it’s a solid roster upgrade for L.A., who get two good shooters in Russell and Malik Beasley, as well as a strong rebounder and defender in Jarred Vanderbilt, while not giving up much in the way of current production. Westbrook played a big role as the Lakers’ Sixth Man, but after a solid start in that role, he simply has not been able to consistently produce offensively at anything approaching decent efficiency.
That said, he still will apparently be in demand at a minimum price should the Jazz buy out his contract as expected, with Chris Haynes reporting immediately after the trade was completed that the Clippers were interested in keeping Westbrook in L.A.
Should Russell Westbrook secure a buyout from the Utah Jazz after the three-team trade is complete, the Los Angeles Clippers are said to have interest in the star guard, league sources tell @NBAonTNT, @BleacherReport.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) February 9, 2023
That interest is apparently mutual, per Law Murray of The Athletic.
Source tells @TheAthletic that NBA guard Russell Westbrook would have interest in LA Clippers if he secures buyout after pending trade.
— Law Murray 💔 (@LawMurrayTheNU) February 9, 2023
The Clippers’ desire to upgrade their point guard rotation is well known, as Reggie Jackson and John Wall just haven’t been the answer, but it’s hard to imagine Westbrook providing what they’re in need of. Westbrook would provide a defensive upgrade, as he is still a solid defender (with the all-important caveat of that only being when he’s locked in), but offensively it’s hard to see this being a particularly good idea. He collapses spacing and is simply not an off-ball threat, which is a problem when so much offense runs through Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and his finishing this season has been pretty dreadful even at and around the rim.
Westbrook does have an excellent relationship with George, which helps, and he did accept the Sixth Man role, albeit a bit begrudgingly, with the Lakers. Kawhi sits enough that having Westbrook as another ball-handler makes some sense, but it’s hard to see this being an addition that’s a huge postseason boost, which should be the Clippers focus, particularly given their strong bounceback of late. It would make for some excellent drama, if nothing else, and it would make their final crosstown showdown on April 5 even spicier than usual.
UPDATE: The Clippers won’t be alone in the pursuit of Russ on the buyout market, as the Bulls are likewise expected to make a push.