On Wednesday, is was reported by Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have been in pursuit of a veteran point guard this summer. Spears reported that both Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook were potential candidates the Lakers could pursue.
The Westbrook to the Lakers report received an update on Saturday morning when NBA reporter Austin Krell revealed that the Lakers had developed some traction in their pursuit of Russell Westbrook. The supposed trade would require a combination of Dennis Schroder and Kyle Kuzma for salary purposes, and likely young guard Talen Horton-Tucker as the final piece for Washington.
Because Dennis Schroder is set to hit free agency this summer, the Lakers would need him to agree to a sign and trade in order for this hypothetical trade to work. Because it is unclear whether Schroder would comply in this deal, or if the Wizards would even be interested to begin with, there are likely to be competing trade offers for Westbrook this off-season.
With the Lakers reportedly gaining traction in their pursuit of Westbrook, should the Clippers look to create a competing offer? Despite his limitations, Russell Westbrook alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis would likely make the Lakers clear favorites in the Western Conference next season. In 65 games for the Wizards last year, Westbrook once again averaged a triple-double, putting up 22.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and a league-leading 11.7 APG.
After many questioned his value following an injury-plagued run in the bubble, Westbrook proved again this year that he is still the star player he has been throughout his career. While his outside shot is still not a weapon, he is a guy that can essentially be pencilled in for 20/10/10 every single night, and that type of production certainly holds value.
The debate surrounding Westbrook's impact vs. his shortcomings is less relevant to this conversation than whether or not his skillset fits with the Clippers. With Reggie Jackson likely to command a contract outside of the Clippers' budget, the team will once again be left without a starting point guard. While Patrick Beverley is still under contract for the 2021-22 NBA season, and possesses more playmaking ability than he is given credit for, he played his best basketball in the playoffs when he was alongside a primary ball-handler. With Reggie Jackson likely on the move, and Rajon Rondo's best days behind him, the Clippers could be greatly benefited by a player of Westbrook's caliber.
Russell Westbrook has led the NBA in assists three of the last four seasons, with his 11.4 APG clip last year topping his previous career best of 10.7 in 2019. Alongside a Clippers' team that is loaded with some of the league's best shooters, Westbrook would absolutely thrive in Ty Lue's offense; however, how many of those shooters would actually be able to stay if the Clippers acquired Russ? It is important to remember that Westbrook is still owed $91M over the next two seasons. This is not a situation where a player has been bought out and gets to choose their next destination for free. If the Clippers want to acquire Westbrook, they must send out a significant amount of salary.
A potential Westbrook to the Clippers trade would require a combination of Patrick Beverley, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, and Ivica Zubac, just to fit Russ into the Clippers' payroll. With Talen Horton-Tucker likely being on the table if the Lakers were to deal for Westbrook, it is logical to assume that Washington would also ask for Terance Mann from the Clippers in a potential deal for Westbrook. Any combination of these players in a package for Westbrook and the $91M he is owed over the next two seasons would just not be optimal.
Plugging Russell Westbrook into this current Clippers team would make them exponentially better, but unless he works out a Blake Griffin-esque buyout with the Wizards, this is not going to be a possibility. A Westbrook to the Clippers trade would require too many players leaving LA for the deal to make the wanted impact.
Compensating for Westbrook's subpar defense by playing him along Patrick Beverley would be ideal for the Clippers; however, Pat would almost certainly have to be included in any Westbrook trade. Similarly, Westbrook's playmaking ability would be best utilized alongside snipers like Kennard and Morris, as well as the rolling big Ivica Zubac, but at least two of them would also likely have to exit in any Westbrook trade.
Russell Westbrook proved last year that he is still a fantastic player, which is why he is reportedly being pursued by some of the league's top contenders; however, the Clippers are just not in a position to propose any competitive offers for the triple-double king.