Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles Clippers: How he fits in with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard

The Clippers are about to add another big name to a star-studded roster. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojarowski, that’s expected Russell Westbrook finalize his contract termination with the Utah Jazz and sign with the Californian team.

The point guard position on the team in Los Angeles has produced mediocre results throughout the season. As soon as they could they got rid of both John Wall as Reggie Jackson and they seem to believe Westbrook can help bolster that position. Will it work? It’s time to find out.

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How Russell Westbrook fills a clear need

It’s been six seasons since Russell Westbrook took the MVP. He is obviously not the same player he was then. But he is the utterly useless figure his detractors make him out to be.

DARKO it shows how the Clippers’ other guards have diminished their impact over the years. And also shows the difference in performance compared to Russ. This tool is used to project the progress of player trajectories based on a statistical prediction.

A chart showing the decline in Russell Westbrook's impact over the course of his career

In his prime, Westbrook was someone who broke impact measurement systems. Its impact according to DARKO today is average, similar to other bases like Monte Morris or Gary Payton II. Russ is still a serviceable player who can give you quality minutes while your stars get some rest, but anyone expecting an elite performance should lower their expectations.

However, statistics won’t capture Westbrook’s full impact. His offensive performance with the Lakers was disastrous, but that should improve in this new experience with the Clippers. Ty Lue’s men needed someone who can get to the rim and collapse defenses, because often his attack was excessively predictable. They rank 20th in divisions per game and a mediocre 18th in assist percentage. Those issues led to them being the 8th worst offense in terms of efficiency.

The Clippers will acquire Westbrook primarily to answer several questions: Can he still get to the rim, collapse defenses and give shooters options?

The short answer is yes. Russ is still an imposing physique, even at 34 years old. According to NBA statisticstheirs 15.1 splits per night is 12th best in the league, placing himself at the level of Pascal Siakam and LaMelo Ball. That’s already much better than what the Clippers had previously.

player divisions by party Minutes per game
Russell Westbrook 15.1 28.7
John Wall 8.6 22.2
Reggie Jackson 6.7 25.7

Westbrook’s performance as a finisher at the rim is below average, but it does serve him well to record 58% accuracy.

Another thing in Russ’s favor is that, unlike the Lakers’ roster, the Clippers have plenty of shooters to surround him with to make his job easier. According to Cleaning the Glass, his former team is ranked no 27th in outside accuracy with 31.3% while the other team in Los Angeles is 11th with 36% accuracy.

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How Russell Westbrook can fit into the Clippers role

Gary Trent Jr.  and Fred VanVleet defend Russell Westbrook

If Westbrook can stick to setting good blocks for Leonard and George, splitting the rim with strength and being solid on defense, then he would be a great addition to the Angels. However, there are reasons to be skeptical about this. The Lakers wanted him to play a similar role and didn’t get it.

Russ usually tries to do a lot on the track. He became a terrible jump shooter, hitting just 32% on mid-range and 29% on triples. This will cause him to have several questionable actions in each game that will put his presence in the rotation in question. These bad decisions often happen in crucial situations as well.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis were upset after Russell Westbrook bricked a jumper for a 102-101 lead. There were 17 seconds left on the shot clock and 30 seconds left in the game.

— Lakers Daily (@LakersDailyCom) October 23, 2022

If Westbrook isn’t willing to take on a more limited role, it could be very detrimental to the team. George and Leonard control the ball a lot for the Clippers, something they do very effectively. PG has been playing at an All-NBA level when healthy, while Kawhi, after a rough start, is reborn.

The 2017 MVP is averaging less than a point per possession when shooting, which in today’s hyper-efficient NBA is one of the worst numbers in the league for his shot volume.

player Points per shot attempted percentile
Russell Westbrook 0.99 13th
Paul George 1.20 77th
Kawhi Leonard 1.21 79th

Statistics via Cleaning the Glass

What if Russell Westbrook doesn’t work out for the Clippers?

The Clippers have a pretty easy problem here if the concerns about Westbrook become real. They can just take him out of the rotation. Players arriving in the shopping market assume a low risk bet.

All in all, signing Russ makes sense as a move that can positively pay for the money invested. The odds of that working out aren’t great, but Westbrook is ready to outbid any other free agent.

The Clippers also acquired Bones Hyland and Eric Gordon no commercial term. Both can give points and create a game from the base. While there will be a lot of uproar over the risks involved in this signing, the Angels have plenty of backup options if it goes wrong.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its organizations.

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