It has been a long time coming, but the inevitable has finally happened. Russell Westbrook is no longer a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. After a tumultuous one and a half-year stint with the purple and gold, the Lakers finally cut their losses and traded away Westbrook and a 2027 first-round pick (protected from 1-4) for three pieces that fit much more seamlessly alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
It’s difficult to think about the Lakers being anything other than the huge winners of this trade, as D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley will give the Lakers some much-needed outside marksmanship while Jarred Vanderbilt will shore up their shaky frontcourt depth.
For Russell Westbrook, however, this is a continuation of a worrying trend for the former MVP. He has now played for four teams in the past five seasons. And once his trade to the Utah Jazz becomes official and he secures his expected buyout, he will soon make that five teams in five seasons.
It’s quite unclear how much Westbrook can help a team with playoff/championship aspirations. His sharp decline in athleticism has compounded his most glaring weaknesses, namely his inability to space the floor and his tendency to take some questionable shots.
But Russell Westbrook has shown that he can still be a positive contributor as long as he sticks to his strengths. In addition, Westbrook has also displayed that he can leave his ego at the door and accept a bench role. Thus, he could very well still be a solid addition for any team as long as they have the infrastructure to bring out the best in the former MVP.
Here are Westbrook’s four best destinations once he officially secures his buyout from the Jazz.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers seem like they’ve been hunting for a point guard upgrade for as long as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been in town. They added Reggie Jackson from the scrap heap in 2020, traded for Rajon Rondo in 2021, added a past-his-prime John Wall in 2022, and elevated Terance Mann into the starting role for good in 2023.
So why not add yet another floor general in Russell Westbrook, whose career, oddly enough, is a bit intertwined with that of Jackson, Rondo, and Wall?
One of the main problems the Clippers have on offense is their less-than-stellar ability to get to the hoop. They could very well be the best team in the league when it comes to draining contested jumpshots, but their offense stalls out in the fourth due to a mix of predictability and their inability (or reluctance) to touch the paint.
That won’t happen with Russell Westbrook. Westbrook, for all of his weaknesses, remains one of the best in the NBA in terms of getting into the paint. In addition, given the Clippers’ roster construction, Westbrook will have plenty of space to work with, unlike with the Lakers, whose spacing is even more congested than the current Western Conference standings. Paul George should also benefit from Westbrook’s addition, as PG had the best season of his career alongside the 2017 league MVP.
Fans might be put off by Westbrook’s tendency to barf up some inexplicable shots. This could end up being another John Wall situation. But for someone on the buyout market, it’ll be difficult to find someone with as much upside as Westbrook, his decline notwithstanding.
The Mavs have already swung for the fences, trading for Kyrie Irving to give Luka Doncic the secondary superstar he needs given his heavy offensive burden. For all the memes surrounding his off-court behavior, Irving gives the Mavs arguably the scariest backcourt in the entire association.
Nevertheless, the Mavs’ backcourt depth still leaves a lot to be desired, as they needed to relinquish Spencer Dinwiddie in the Irving trade. Jaden Hardy might be up to the task of becoming the Mavs’ third lead guard, as evidenced by his incredible game against the Jazz this past Monday. However, adding Russell Westbrook gives the Mavs a bit of certainty in terms of what they’re getting from the third guard role. The Mavs could then bring Hardy along slowly, and ramp up his role the more consistent he becomes.
Russell Westbrook had a historic season the last time he was in D.C. So why not run it back?
The Wizards’ point guard situation isn’t set in stone either, with Monte Morris, Delon Wright, and Kendrick Nunn splitting minutes at the one. Westbrook, for all his flaws, arguably remains a better player than all of them.
It also helps that Russell Westbrook already has chemistry with Bradley Beal, Daniel Gafford, and Deni Avdija after playing with them in the past, and the Wizards’ ability to go 5-out with Kristaps Porzingis as the nominal center should also give Westbrook a ton of space to operate.
In a league where chaos reigns supreme, wouldn’t it be quite the sight to see Russell Westbrook reunite with Kevin Durant seven years after their messy breakup?
Disregard the fact that the Nets have a ton of guards in their roster, and that Cam Thomas is currently breathing fire. To watch Westbrook and Durant play together, again? That would make the Nets must-see television.