Just because the NBA trade deadline has passed does not mean the rest of us can’t indulge in future trade speculation, right? After all, the NBA draft is just a little more than three months away and the league’s rumor mill will be whirring at full tilt by then.
In that spirit comes a proposal that would yield another major star for the Clippers, at a position of need—Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook. There’s no indication that the Wizards and Clippers have talked about a swap including Russell, and the deal is the brainchild of the folks at Bleacher Report, but it does represent an interesting potential opportunity for the Clippers.
Here’s how the proposal shapes up:
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: PG Russell Westbrook, 2023 second-round pick (via Boston Celtics), 2024 second-round pick (via Boston Celtics)
Washington Wizards Receive: G/F Luke Kennard, PG Patrick Beverley, C Daniel Oturu, 2021 second-round pick (via Brooklyn Nets)
Charlotte Hornets Receive: C Ivica Zubac
Russell Westbrook’s Contract a Heavy Burden
As writer Greg Swartz explained, the Clippers’ willingness to take such a plunge depends on how they perform in the postseason this year. Assuming L.A. comes up short of the NBA Finals, or maybe even a championship, the Clippers will be looking for offseason answers.
“A Big Three of Leonard, George and Westbrook would become arguably the best outside of Brooklyn and still have Serge Ibaka, Marcus Morris and Rajon Rondo in the rotation,” Swartz wrote. “For taking on Westbrook’s contract, the Clippers receive a pair of second-round picks as well.”
That would be the big gamble for the Clippers. It would sting to lose Beverley, the heart of the current Clippers bunch, but he has gotten less effective through age (32) and injury. Sending out Zubac and Kennard hurts, too, especially as they have performed well lately.
— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) April 4, 2021
But the real sacrifice for the Clippers here is Westbrook’s contract. He is in the third of a five-year, $207 million contract he signed with Oklahoma City, which would leave the Clippers on the hook for $44 million next season and $47 million the following year, assuming Westbrook picks up his option for that season.
Westbrook Has Been a Poor Fit Elsewhere
While the numbers Westbrook posts are inarguably impressive—he is averaging 21.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists—he is also very inefficient in getting those numbers. Westbrook has never developed an accurate 3-point shot, and is making only 30.9% from the arc this season. That’s a poor number, but it is up from last year, when he shot 25.8%.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 1, 2021
Westbrook is making 43.2% of his shots from the field and 61.3% from the free-throw line, both well below the league averages (46.4% and 77.7%).
Bringing Westbrook back to L.A. (he is a UCLA product) would be a splashy move, but there is no indication he would make the necessary sacrifices to fit in with current Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. In two seasons playing with George in Oklahoma City, Westbrook’s Thunder failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
So while it is true that such a deal is enticing given the limited price the Clippers would have to pay, it is hard to see how a Leonard-George-Westbrook trio would work for L.A.