While players like Kyrie Irving and Fred VanVleet may get a lot of attention for guards, one-time MVP Russell Westbrook is a major under-the-radar option on the NBA free agency 2023 market.
Russell Westbrook’s 2022-2023 campaign was very much a tale of two Los Angeles stories. Over the first few months, he seemed to be a square peg in the round hole that was the Los Angeles Lakers organization. Despite a new head coach in his second season with the team, and attempting to be a sixth man, Westbrook remained a poor fit for the current Lakers roster.
That is why after months of speculation, the team finally pulled the trigger and shipped him off to Utah in one of February’s biggest trades. However, the nine-time All-Star didn’t play a minute for the Jazz and instead was cut loose and tested the open market. Where after a week he chose to go to the other LA team, the Clippers.
- Russell Westbrook stats (’22-’23): 15.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 31% 3PT
While his numbers for the Lakers and Clippers were similar, his efficiency skyrocketed with his second team as head coach Ty Lue let him play to his strengths instead of trying to fit into a specific style. When their top players — Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — went down with injuries before and during the playoffs, the 34-year-old was the only thing that kept them competitive in their series against the Phoenix Suns.
After a strong showing the with Clippers, Russell Westbrook now heads into NBA free agency with his value improved and looking for one last big contract in the final years of his career. With that in mind, here are the four teams most likely to pursue the star point guard this summer.
If the Miami Heat shocked the NBA world and won a league title in June, it would certainly change their priorities in July. However, assuming they are cut down like every other team by the buzzsaw that is the Denver Nuggets, Russell Westbrook would be a likely target this summer.
The team was linked to him in February, and they have needed a scoring point guard upgrade since it became very clear that Kyle Lowry’s best days are behind him. With them not having much money to spend, he would be a good option that’s cheaper than Irving and might sign for fewer years than VanVleet.
The Detroit Pistons were one of the worst teams in the NBA last season. While that wouldn’t seem too appealing to a future Hall-of-Famer like Russell Westbrook, the team has a lot of cap space and would likely let him play the way he wants, and pay him a top-shelf salary to sell tickets and attempt to get back to the playoffs.
Plus it would take the offensive pressure off young star Cade Cunningham and whoever the team selects in the first round of the NBA Draft.
The Chicago Bulls were another team linked to Westbrook when he was available earlier this year. While they don’t have much money to burn now, if the rumblings of Lonzo Ball’s career possibly being over are true, getting his salary back would get them more in his price range. As the primary ball handler, he could be a good fit with the team’s current stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
Los Angeles Clippers
After the Clippers’ season came to another disappointing close, there was a belief that, in the end, they may be the best option for Russell Westbrook in NBA free agency. He played well in his time there and they may see a greater value in him than other teams. This means if he wants to compete in a preferable style, on a competitive team, and make good money, LA might be his only option.