Who wants Russell Westbrook, and Russell Westbrook wants who?

Who wants Russell Westbrook, and Russell Westbrook wants who?

Russell Westbrook has had an amazing career to say the least. He’s a 9x All Star, 9x All NBA recipient, 3x assists champion, and a 1x NBA MVP. The one thing he is lacking is that ring on his finger. And now that he was traded away from LeBron and the Lakers, he is going to try to find a destination to get that championship he has waited for his entire career. Or will he? Will he stay with Utah and maybe try to raise his value on most likely bench role? Will he try to head to the other Los Angeles team, and have a key role on a championship team, despite being behind many great players? Will he go to Chicago to run a lacking offense and raise his value going into the offseason? Or will he just go to the Wizards…to go to the Wizards?! We’ll break down everything here on this article, to see what is the most likely outcome for one of my favorite sports players ever, and see if he can maybe get a championship ring in the process!

It has been a rocky road for Westbrook ever since he was dealt from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets. After failing to win a championship with Russell Westbrook alongside Kevin Durant or Paul George, they decided to blow the entire team up during the 2019 offseason, which is considered one of the craziest in history, a main reason for it being because of Oklahoma City’s trades. George, after finishing 3rd in NBA MVP voting, was dealt to the Clippers for a plethora of weapons, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and five first round picks. Then Westbrook asked Oklahoma City if he could get traded, and they traded him to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and more first round picks, teaming Westbrook up with James Harden again, but this time, Harden coming off of a 36 point per game season.

He started off the 2020 NBA season slow, as Westbrook was averaging 26 points per game, but over 4 turnovers with 23.7% 3pt shooting on 4.1 attempts a night until February 6th. But then once the Rockets dealt Clint Capela to the Hawks, everything changed. When they went to small ball, Russ stopped taking as many shots, especially from 3, since 3pt shooting was no longer a liability on certain parts of Houston’s lineup, and started shooting much more efficiently, proving he can still play at a high level. However, the bubble playoffs did not quite work out for him, as sickness and injuries held him and the Rockets back from a possible deep playoff run, losing to the Lakers in five games.

That next offseason he was traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall and a first round pick, hoping he could turn a very mediocre Wizards team around. Like he did in Houston, Westbrook and the Wizards started their season off terribly, as the Wizards held the worst record in the NBA, as Westbrook was averaging 19 points on 38% shooting in his first ten games. But then the Wizards finally started to get things going, especially after trading for Daniel Gafford at the trade deadline that spring, as Westbrook help clinch the Wizards to a playoff birth, as they finished the regular season 17-6, with Westbrook being awarded the May Eastern Conference player of the month. He even came close to an All-NBA team, averaging 22 points, 11.5 assists and 11.7 rebounds–one of the most insane triple double seasons in NBA history–as he broke Oscar Robertson’s triple double record.

But that summer, he was dealt to the Lakers, which is when things really went downhill. He averaged just 18 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, but the stats don’t say it all, He was very in-efficient, even if his efficiency numbers were actually better than they were in Washington, and he was a liability on the defensive end. He ended being benched at points during the season. And then there was this season, 2022-23, where Westbrook took pride in running the bench instead of starting, and when LeBron James and Anthony Davis¬† were healthy, it helped the Lakers stay in games on the bench unit. However, his numbers diminished, his shot attempts diminished, and despite that, his efficiency diminished. So because of this, and his $47 million dollar contract, Westbrook was dealt to the Jazz in a big three team deal, to put us in the situation that we are in now.

Westbrook, in my opinion, has no reason to play in Utah. Utah definitely needs a backup point guard to say the least. However, I’m not sure if this is good for Westbrook. He may make the playoffs in Utah, but definitely won’t compete for a championship. Because I think there are two directions that Westbrook needs to decide to go in: raise your value for this upcoming free agency or try to go to a good team to get a championship. It is really hard to do both. And because of Utah’s lack of depth, I don’t think he does either if he decides to play out this remaining two months (and maybe playoffs), as a Jazz. So even though Adrian Wojnarowski says it’s not 100% that Westbrook will decide to buyout with the Jazz, I think it is very likely.

Woj also reported if Westbrook were to decide to buyout with Utah, the options would be to sign with the Clippers, Heat, Bulls or Wizards, the four teams Westbrook has communicated with on a possible signing. Even though some of you may disagree, I think his only legitimate chance to win a title out of those four teams is the Clippers, because they have a championship proven player in Kawhi Leonard and well-rounded team on both sides of the ball. And even though Miami has had success in recent playoffs, mainly because of playoff-Jimmy Butler, I don’t think their team is built the same way it was last year, with Kyle Lowry regressing and injuries hitting them hard all season long; the Heat were the No. 1 seed in the East going into the postseason last year.

So does that mean he goes to the Clippers? Well, he already created chemistry with Paul George a few years back in OKC, when Westbrook averaged a triple double and George had that MVP caliber year, as one of the best players in the league on both sides of the ball. The Clippers also need a point guard to run their offense, after getting rid of Reggie Jackson at the deadline. Because we all know Bones Hyland is a shooting guard with point guard potential in the future, and Terrance Mann just isn’t going to cut it. However, Westbrook may not be the right point guard for Los Angeles. The Clippers are the 4th seed in the Western Conference despite many injuries throughout the season, and even though the west is wide open, I think they can very easily get by teams like Memphis, Sacramento, or New Orleans, due to their lack of playoff experience. They don’t need a hit-or-miss, inconsistent athletic point guard like Russ, to get you maybe a 25 point triple double, or eight turnovers. They need someone that is not going to make many mistakes, even if it means the players doesn’t have as much upside. I think they would be better off to go after someone like Patrick Beverly in the buyout market, as oppose to Westbrook due to the situation they’re in, and the team they’ve built.

For Westbrook though, yes going to the Clippers would help him possibly get a championship, it may not raise his value a tremendous amount, if his inconsistent play and turnovers brings the Clippers back from a first ever championship. That would be bad for both situations we mentioned earlier. So what about Miami? Miami could always compete for a championship with their experience and playoff-Jimmy. I think Miami though is the worst destination for Westbrook. Westbrook lacks shooting. When I mean lacks, I mean lacks! He shoots 29.5% on three’s where the closest defender is at least four feet away, according to NBA.com. He needs a team around him that can shoot. He wouldn’t really have that in Miami. And like Los Angeles, Miami doesn’t need someone who takes over a game and wins. That’s why they have Jimmy. They need someone who will make minimal mistakes and put their best scorers in the best position. I don’t think Westbrook does that for Miami. Plus, it is reported the Heat are more interested in acquiring a front court player in the buyout market, guys like Kevin Love or Serge Ibaka, more so than getting a front court player like Westbrook or Beverley.

These next two destinations won’t get him a championship, but will raise his value going into this summer’s free agency. The first option is to go to Chicago. He would be back under his head coach in Oklahoma City from 2016-2019, Billy Donovan, so there is a connection there. The Bulls, after this time last year being one of the top seeds in the East, have highly regressed to just the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference. A key part of this lack of success has been their point guard play. Lonzo Ball has been out the entire season due to injury, and they’ve been flipping between Ayo Dosunmu, Goran Dragic and Alex Caruso as their starting point guard, and even though they are quality role players, they can’t run an offense the way Chicago needs. They need a guy that can win you a game and come up with big plays. Westbrook coming to Chicago, stepping into a role that he and Chicago both need, and leading them to a surprising playoff appearance would be a great way to go into free agency, and maybe get a multiple year deal this summer.

The other option is to go to my Washington Wizards. Westbrook was just there, with Bradley Beal, Daniel Gafford and the crew, so he’s familiar with the team. And Washington’s weak spot has been point guard ever since Westbrook left the Wizards. They got Spencer Dinwiddie, then traded him away for Kristaps Porzingis and finished off last season with Ish Smith as their starting point guard. And now they have Monte Morris, with quality point guards like Delon Wright and Kendrick Nunn off the bench. Of course you can upgrade at point guard, but it is not a necessity for the Wizards. However, if Westbrook is to end up back in Washington, it would be a great way for him to raise his value. Over the past month, the Wizards have the best offense in the NBA per 100 possessions, and Westbrook could slide into that offense and be impactful. He would be alongside shooters like Kyle Kuzma, Beal, Porzingis, Deni Avdija and others, unlike he was previously in the nations capital. While, as a big Wizards and Westbrook fan, it would be fun to see him back, getting triple double’s and lobbing balls up accurately to a newly improved Daniel Gafford again, I think it would make more sense for the Wizards, if they were to make an acquisition in the buyout market, to go after a front court player like Miami, a guy like Kevin Love or Serge Ibaka, to be the backup big instead of Taj Gibson or Anthony Gill.

We’re going to have to see what happens for Russell Westbrook. I know talks have been big with him coming back to Los Angeles (just for a different team), but I could see the Clippers saying no, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, and the fact that the John Wall experiment, which is very similar to this one, didn’t go well. Miami seems unlikely even though it seems to be Westbrook’s preferred destination. And if he leads Chicago to the playoffs, his contract would go up more, but he may not, so almost a guaranteed contract raising move would be to go back to DC, with the new weapons they have. However, as I just mentioned, I’m not sure Washington will prioritize getting a PG, with the depth they added to that position over the past seven-eight months. What we also need to think about is that we don’t know what Westbrook will decide to do. What does he want to prioritize, winning or raising his value for free agency this summer? Because he could go back to Washington or Chicago, play well there, raise his value, and then go to a team like the Clippers next season and for the next few seasons after that to compete for a championship. We’ll have to see what happens with Westbrook and this whole buyout situation, because it is definitely interesting to say the least!

 

Chase Coburn

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