Russell Westbrook could finish the season with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards or Miami Heat, having already communicated with all four teams, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
In an appearance on "NBA Countdown" on Wednesday, Wojnarowski said that the Utah Jazz, who acquired Westbrook's $47.1 million expiring contract before the trade deadline, have given the 34-year-old guard and his agent permission to speak with teams who are interested in signing him after a buyout. Wojnarowski added that none of the teams are in a rush, and that Westbrook and his potential suitors are "trying to get a sense of what a role would look like."
Hm. What do you think about this news, Russ?
Previously, reports indicated that the Bulls and Heat were Westbrook's likely landing spots. Washington is an interesting potential destination because Westbrook had a strong second half of the season there two years ago, but it's also a strange one -- since Jan. 18, the Wizards have had the best offense in the NBA (122 points per 100 possessions), but their defense has been average at best this season. They are not exactly in need of an offense-first, high-volume, low-efficiency shot creator.
On Thursday, The Athletic's Shams Charania and Law Murray also reported that the Clippers have talked to Westbrook, with Utah's permission. Former teammate Paul George publicly lobbied for them to sign him, but it's unclear if the front office has serious interest in going down that road. In separate press conferences before and after the trade deadline, team president Lawrence Frank emphasized that they were not necessarily looking for a "point guard," but rather players who won't be played off the floor defensively and take some of the playmaking burden off of their stars without being ball-dominant themselves. Frank also said that he would sit down with coach Tyronn Lue and discuss their options on the buyout market.
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Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star, a former MVP and a future Hall of Famer. In his 15th season, he can still put pressure on the rim, push the pace in transition and get triple-doubles. He is a tricky fit, though, because he needs the ball in his hands and has not been efficient with it. In 52 games with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, Westbrook had a 27.6 percent usage rate and a 49.6 percent true shooting percentage. Among all the players in the top 100 in usage, only he and Cade Cunningham (who played 12 games before having season-ending surgery) have a true shooting percentage under 50 percent.
Both the Wizards and the Clippers could put four shooters next to Westbrook, giving him an environment much more conducive to success than the one he was in with the Lakers. He might need that, though, more than either of those teams needs him.
According to Wojnarowski, it is not 100 percent certain that Westbrook will take a buyout and find a new team over the All-Star break. He could instead decide to finish the season under contract with the Jazz, then explore his options in free agency in the summer.