Our player preview series for the 2024 Clippers season continues with Russell Westbrook, the Clippers’ starting point guard and most controversial player.
Weight: 200 pounds
Position: Point Guard
Years in NBA: 16
Key Stats: 15.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 3.4 turnovers in 30.2 minutes per game across 21 games on 48.9/35.6/65.8 shooting splits in the regular season.
Contract Status: First year of a two-year contract worth nearly $8 million.
When it was rumored that the LA Clippers had major interest in Russell Westbrook when he joined the buyout market following the NBA trade deadline, the fanbase was torn. Westbrook struggled in his one and half seasons with the LA Lakers and fans wondered how he would fit on the team.
By the end of the regular season and playoffs, it was safe to say that Clippers fans were pleasantly surprised by Westbrook’s production. He didn’t try and do too much, he fit in with the lineup, and provided the Clippers with a much-needed ball-handler and playmaker.
When the Clippers found themselves once again short-handed in the first round of the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns, it was Westbrook who put the team on his back and kept the series competitive even as they fell to the Suns in five games.
The Clippers probably expect more of the same from Westbrook this season. He didn’t really get much of a chance to play with both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the lineup. He’s become the vocal leader on the court and in the locker room. What they need is someone who will continue to move the ball, get guys shots, and take advantage of his scoring opportunities when they come.
Westbrook has always been a gifted playmaker throughout his career. He has amazing court vision, can find the cracks in the defense, and get teammates scoring opportunities. The Clippers didn’t have a true point guard on the roster and when Westbrook arrived, the difference he made in that regard was highly noticeable. He took a lot of pressure off Leonard and George from having to be primary ball-handlers and facilitators.
Westbrook is also one of the top rebounding point guards in the league. There’s a reason why he once averaged a triple-double for an entire season. His rebounding prowess was especially on display in the playoffs against the Suns. He creates second shot opportunities and helps keep possessions alive.
Let’s not forget about his scoring ability as well. While he has been criticized in the past for at times trying to do too much on the offensive end as well as his shot selection, that wasn’t much of an issue with the Clippers. He’s capable of providing a scoring boost if needed. One of the Clippers best wins of the season came in Memphis when both Leonard and George were sidelined and Westbrook put on an offensive clinic to lead the team.
Shooting efficiency has never been one of Westbrook’s strengths, especially from long-range. He’s a career 30 percent shooter from the three-point line. Oddly enough, Westbrook had one of his most efficient shooting stretches in the 21 games he suited up in for the Clippers. His 48.9 percent shooting from the field and 35.6 percent shooting from three-point range were career-highs. He was taking around 12 shots a game including almost four attempts from three. It’s up to Westbrook to show he can maintain similar shooting percentages for the entirety of an 82 game season.
Turnovers have sometimes been an issue with Westbrook, but again, the 3.4 turnovers per game he averaged with the Clippers was the second lowest mark in his career. The Clippers struggled to protect the ball as a whole, and like his shooting, Westbrook will have to show he can maintain that for the duration of the season.
The 2023 Clippers didn’t need too much from Westbrook and that may be why he actually posted solid numbers. The 2024 Clippers hopefully won’t need to rely on Russell Westbrook to have huge games every night as he was accustomed to having to do earlier in his career. All they need is someone who will run the offense, get guys shots, find his spots on the offensive end, continue his aggression on the glass and be a pest on the defensive end. It will be interesting and intriguing to see Westbrook with this team for an entire season rather than just a small sample.