Our review of the Clippers’ 2023 season continues with a look at buyout market signing of Russell Westbrook.
Weight: 200 pounds
Position: Point Guard
Years in NBA: 15
Key Stats: 15.8 points, 7.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 3.4 turnovers in 30.2 minutes per game across 21 games played (21 starts) on 48.9/35.6/65.8 (3.6 FTA attempts) shooting splits.
Given the way Russell Westbrook’s one and half seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers went, you would be hard-pressed to find a Clippers fan that was 100 percent on board with the signing. Given the trade deadline acquisitions of Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland and Terance Mann’s strong stint as the starting point guard before the All-Star break, many questioned adding yet another guard and how Westbrook would fit with the current roster.
Whether or not the front office was persuaded into signing Westbrook by the coaching staff and the star players, what is clear is that they tried to get a starting point guard at the deadline. An offer was made for Kyrie Irving. They kicked the tires on Mike Conley and Fred VanVleet. When none of those options came to fruition, they turned to the buyout market.
In reality, the Westbrook signing has to be considered a success. Sure, the Clippers went on a losing streak immediately after signing him, but during that stretch of games Westbrook was the least of the problems. He immediately became the best playmaker on the team and his presence allowed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to thrive in catch and shoot situations.
Many people may not have realized it, but Westbrook’s shooting percentages with the Clippers, 48.9 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from three-point range, were both career-highs. His turnover numbers were in line with his career averages.
Overall, Westbrook fit in with the Clippers and played his role. He didn’t try to do too much. He wasn’t taken off ball and forced into playing as a spot up shooter by coaches who clearly didn’t know how to play to his strengths and players who refused to move off ball and become more consistent outside shooters.
Westbrook’s rebounding and defense were a major boost, especially in the playoffs. Westbrook’s clutch rebounding and defense in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Phoenix Suns was the difference in the Clippers’ lone win. And when Leonard was ruled out following Game 2, it was Westbrook who admirably put the team on his back and tried to will them to wins.
He became the locker room leader that the Clippers needed and he was able to play free. For the first time in one and half seasons, he was having fun playing basketball again.
If there was one blemish though, it was his free-throw shooting. Early in his career Westbrook was a solid 80+ percent shooter from the line. It’s slipped in recent years and this season was among his career-lows in free-throw efficiency.
Future with Clippers
It’s tough to say actually what the future holds for Westbrook and the Clippers. It’s possible he may have earned himself one more big pay day. The front office will probably do their due diligence this offseason in seeing what starting point guards might be available and what it would take to make a deal. There are younger players in Mann and Hyland who are going to need playing time not to mention figuring out what the plan is for Jason Preston.
Although Westbrook’s stint went well, it isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine him not being back next season. If he is back, it’ll likely be on a small, short-term contract because at this point in his career he may not want to leave home again. There is a spot for Westbrook on this team. But if he is back, what isn’t 100 percent certain is his role being the same depending on how else the roster changes.