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Russell Westbrook Brings Depth For The Clippers

Russell Westbrook Clippers
(Rick Bowmer/ AP Photo)

Since Russell Westbrook joined the Los Angeles Clippers roster during the second phase of last year, the former MVP showcased his brand-new demeanor in the role and statistics. Despite playing as a sixer this season, Westbrook came off the bench with his on-court impact, contributing to the team as a key piece while the Clippers were experiencing winning streaks in December and January.

Although the Clippers stumbled slightly in February, we can’t ignore the horrible dynamics that the full-healthy team brought, pushing them to the top of the Western Conference once. Besides the driving force of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George multiple times against the backdrop, we should count the contribution from Westbrook, who has put up an average of 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds within 22.9 playing minutes.

With that being said, let’s break down his change in the playing role, efficiency, and impact.

Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook dribbles during the first half in Game 4 of a...(Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)

Role on the Team

Dating back to his Lakers period, Westbrook was spotlighted as a powerful backbone for assisting LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, he was unable to replicate the prime dynamics with the Oklahoma City Thunders due to the injury and his growing age. However, his time with the Lakers was marked by struggles to find the right fit within the team’s system. His role was often inconsistent, with fluctuating responsibilities from primary ball-handler to an off-ball contributor, which impacted his ability to perform consistently.

After transferring to the Clippers, head coach Tyronn Lue defined and made his mission clearer, coming off the bench with passion and making off-ball plays. With Leonard, George’s dominance on the ball, Terance Mann’s rising, and Norman Powell’s effectiveness in key moments, Westbrook has to accept the backcourt player on the bench and produce in limited time of play. Surprisingly, the well-setting Clippers leave room for him to explore what the team needs from him.  

We’d love to see him bring the playmaking experience to the team, which is worth it for other players to rely on. As an energizing playmaker, the duty that is assigned by Lue allows him to make creative plays throughout the transition.


Performance and Efficiency

Due to the unstable definition of the role and the tactical uncertainty, Westbrook was suffocated to play normally on the court. In the Lakers, he suffered from the inefficiency of shooting and defense, giving his lowest field-goal percentage (41.7%) last season since his rookie season. Despite showcasing flashes of his past MVP vigor with triple-doubles and high-energy plays, his inability to space the floor and unreasonable offensive choice officially ruled him out of the starting ladder.

While playing with the Clippers with the career-low average points and minutes this season, Westbrook found her way of handling balls, minimizing his turnover to 2.1 per game so far. Dating back to the second half of last season, Westbrook quickly set up the tune after joining the Clippers, putting up 15.8 points with an enhanced field goal (48.9%) and three-point shooting percentage (35.6%). His immediate adaptation asserted himself as an essential piece for the team for the upcoming season.

During December, when the Clippers only dropped two games, Westbrook scored 10.5 within 20.0 minutes per game, generating a positive 1.7 +/-. He demonstrates a new basketball feature by taking advantage of the team’s system that could potentially offer him more favorable matchups and open lanes to exploit due to the attention Leonard and George attract. His performance is anticipated to be more focused on facilitating and making plays rather than scoring.


Team Impact

Without coping with the struggle in all facets, Westbrook wasn’t fit for the Lakers to live up to their champion expectations. But the move to the Clippers gives him an opportunity to help the team rush for a title. Bringing his remaining prowess, Westbrook’s caliber and energy can provide the Clippers with depth and experience and elevate the team’s ceiling.

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