Why the Clippers are including Russell Westbrook

A day after buying and selling for combo guards Eric Gordon and Bones Hyland somewhat than including a real level guard forward of the NBA commerce deadline Feb. 9, LA Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank described the sort of level guard the crew wished to enrich Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

“If there was a point guard who could be in our top eight or nine [players on the roster], we looked at those guys,” Frank stated Feb. 10.

“Invariably, what’s important is, whether they’re a point guard or not, we need someone that won’t be played off the floor defensively, someone who can share the ball responsibilities, but not yet be so ball dominant. You know the ball is going to be in Kawhi and PG’s hands about 60 percent of the time, so it’s a delicate balance.”

After the Clippers misplaced to the Milwaukee Bucks later that night, George was requested if his crew wanted to fill its open roster spot with some extent guard. “Yeah, I mean if there’s, you know, somebody out there,” stated the star guard, who had not too long ago been requested to tackle extra ballhandling and playmaking duties.

George paused earlier than providing his suggestion.

“Russell [Westbrook],” he stated of his former teammate with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Ten days later, Westbrook accomplished a buyout with the Utah Jazz and deliberate to signal with the Clippers, his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, informed ESPN, to assist them pursue a championship.

While the Clippers are including a future Hall of Fame level guard who can fill areas of want and has familiarity having performed with George, there are lots of questions that include including Westbrook — particularly after how the purpose guard’s time ended with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Why are the Clippers including Westbrook?

After the commerce deadline, the entrance workplace met with coach Ty Lue, his workers and their two finest stars — Leonard and George — to debate the additions of Hyland, Gordon and Mason Plumlee and assess what else the crew would possibly want heading into this playoff run.

With enter from the 2 stars, the consensus was the Clippers might nonetheless use a veteran level guard, particularly after buying and selling away Reggie Jackson and John Wall. Lue has made it clear previously he prefers having some extent guard in his rotation and the Clippers want somebody to push the tempo. They rank twenty fourth in tempo and twenty second in fastbreak factors by way of Feb. 20.

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They want one other veteran — a former MVP with 111 video games of playoff expertise — who can get his personal shot on the rim outdoors of Leonard and George come playoff time. And regardless of having loads of veteran expertise themselves, the Clippers can use a participant so as to add depth and supply vitality.

“We accept him open arms, man, let him be himself,” Marcus Morris Sr. stated Feb. 10 when he joined George in campaigning so as to add Westbrook. “We need the personality, we need the veteran [experience]. He’s been in the playoffs a lot of times, been to the championship.”

How a lot of a threat is including Westbrook at this level?

There is threat for either side.

For the Clippers, they’re including a major veteran and character who wears his feelings on his sleeve, and is coming off a stint enjoying alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis that clearly didn’t work.

The Clippers have received 10 of their final 14 video games, however making an attempt to combine Westbrook similtaneously Gordon, Hyland and Plumlee might have a detrimental impression. The Clippers consider they’ve the coach and veterans to offset that and loads of observe time with 21 video games remaining on the schedule.

For Westbrook, there’s threat in taking a buyout and becoming a member of the Clippers on a veteran’s minimal. If this go-around with the Clippers goes badly, it might negatively impression his free agent market this summer time.

All events, although, are stated to be on the identical web page so far as understanding Westbrook’s function to contribute to the Clippers’ championship pursuit.

How will Westbrook match and the way totally different might it’s than the Wall expertise?

The Clippers are hoping Westbrook can be a extra athletic, more healthy and sooner model of Wall, who got here off the bench on a minutes restriction after enjoying 40 video games within the earlier three seasons. Westbrook ought to have the ability to do the issues that Wall confirmed glimpses of earlier within the season, together with pushing the tempo and attending to the rim whereas kicking out to shooters.

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Unfortunately for Wall, he didn’t get to play alongside George and Leonard that a lot due to accidents. The three performed a complete of eight video games going 5-3 and averaging 107.1 factors per possessions of their restricted minutes collectively, outscoring opponents by a plus-4.7 per 100 in line with analysis by ESPN Stats & Information analysis.

“Quite honestly, we need somebody,” stated George, who helped recruit Wall to signal with the Clippers in free company final summer time. “Sucked that John didn’t work, but what John brought is what we need: A guy that can get up and down the floor and get us some easy baskets in transition.”

Westbrook has averaged 15.9 factors and seven.5 assists this season, and may help enhance a crew weak spot on the glass when the Clippers go small together with his 6.2 rebounds per recreation.

However, Westbrook additionally comes with a few of the similar weaknesses as Wall, on a extra magnified degree. The 34-year-old is taking pictures 41.7% from the sphere, together with 29.6% from 3. The Clippers did not thoughts Wall attacking the rim, however they didn’t love Wall’s shot choice at instances when the purpose guard, who shot 40.7% general and 30.3% from behind the arc this season, would take pull-up 3s — one thing Westbrook does at instances as properly.

Like Wall, Westbrook can be one of many Clippers’ finest passers the second he places on the uniform. Both level guards can also have some irritating turnovers out of their aggressive play — Westbrook is averaging 3.5 turnovers this season — and may be defensive targets for opposing groups to assault.

It stays to be seen whether or not Lue will begin Westbrook, who was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate with the Lakers. The Clippers have been hitting a groove with Terance Mann within the beginning lineup at level guard for the previous 21 video games, throughout which period Mann was averaging 11.5 factors on 51.7% taking pictures. But Lue envisions Mann as extra of a small ahead, so Westbrook would possibly have the ability to play extra of a real level guard function within the beginning lineup. Norman Powell has additionally been thriving in his sixth man function, averaging 20.1 factors per recreation since Jan. 6.

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Why do the Clippers really feel like they could be a higher match for Westbrook than the Lakers have been?

George loved one of the best season of his profession alongside Westbrook in 2018-19 when he was an MVP candidate averaging a career-high 28 factors, 8.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Thunder. George believes the Clippers have a roster higher suited to Westbrook.

“We got enough shooting to surround Russ where Russ can be Russ,” George stated Feb. 10. “And I think the floor will be open for him, spacing will be there for him. I’m a big believer in and fan of what Russ’ work is. I’ve seen what he can do, night in, night out, and I think he’s still got a lot of game there.”

George believes there are Clippers who can run the ground with Westbrook resembling Mann, Powell, Hyland and Plumlee, and gamers who can area the ground higher for the purpose guard.

“I mean, no knock on the Lakers and his fit there, obviously LeBron can shoot the s— out of it,” George stated. “There’s guys that obviously can shoot with the Lakers as well, but I think we’re a little younger. We can run with him and that’s kind of our game is spacing the floor. … I think that’s what we can complement him [with]. We got a bunch of guys that fit that play style.”

Despite Westbrook remaining in Los Angeles with a crew that has championship aspirations of its personal, the Clippers consider he’ll be beneath much less of a microscope than he was with their Crypto.com Arena neighbors — who they will face on April 5 (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) in a recreation that may very well be pivotal for the Lakers’ playoff or play-in hopes.

“He hasn’t had an opportunity to play on a team where he could be himself and be able to play freely. Playing with the Lakers, it’s like media, media, media,” Morris stated, referring to the highlight of such a high-profile crew. “And from the outside looking in, like every time something bad went wrong — Russell Westbrook. Nobody else was really getting no blame. And it just kept spiraling down.”