Former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook plans to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers once he finalizes a buyout with the Utah Jazz, CBS Sports HQ's Bill Reiter confirmed Monday. Westbrook was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Jazz as part of a three-team deal ahead of the trade deadline earlier this month.
In 52 games for the Lakers this season, the majority of them off the bench, Westbrook averaged 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. But while his counting stats were still solid, his defense, inefficient shooting (41.7 percent from the field, 29.6 percent from 3-point land) and poor fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis were once again a problem for the Lakers. There was also the fact that James was publicly lobbying for the team to trade him, which did not help the vibes in the locker room.
But despite some of Westbrook's issues with the Lakers, and his declining play in recent years, the Clippers are willing to take a chance on him. That's likely at least in part due to comments from Paul George, who told the media earlier this month that the Clippers' players wanted to bring in Westbrook.
"I mean if there's, you know, somebody out there -- Russell,". "If it makes sense and obviously it goes with our team, we're all for it. You know, we need a point guard. But you know, [at] the same [time], I think we're good as well. If nothing happened, we got enough in this locker room to be able to make it work.
"But it would definitely improve our team if we had that traditional point guard to kind of get us in things and make the game easy. So hopefully Russell sees this and we figure something out."
While it's true that the Clippers don't have a traditional point guard in the roster, it's not clear that they need one. They have been awesome with Terance Mann in the starting lineup as the nominal "point guard" alongside George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. and Ivica Zubac. That five-man group has a plus-14.8 net rating in 142 minutes together, and the Clippers are 7-3 in the 10 games that it's been used.
Inserting Westbrook into the starting lineup just to have a "true point guard" would be a big mistake. At the same time, if you're going to make him the sixth man and give him control of the second unit, then why trade for Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland less than two weeks ago. It seems the team will take a look at both options, as Westbrook is expected to start at some point, but perhaps not right away, according to Law Murray.
The Clippers are 10-4 over the last month, and have climbed up to fourth place in the Western Conference now that Leonard and George are both healthy. Adding Westbrook to the mix right when they're rounding into form doesn't make a whole lot of sense.