Posted on: February 21, 2023, 10:40h.
Last updated on: February 21, 2023, 01:55h.
The Los Angeles Clippers signed point guard Russell Westbrook after he agreed to a contract buyout with the Utah Jazz.
Westbrook didn’t play a single minute with the Jazz after the Los Angeles Lakers traded him in a three-team deal shortly before the NBA trade deadline.
The Lakers are on the Western Conference playoff bubble and didn’t think Westbrook could help them make a postseason push in the last quarter of the season. However, the Clippers needed a veteran point guard like Westbrook to help them make a deep run in the postseason.
The landscape in the Western Conference was dramatically changed at the trade deadline when the Brooklyn Nets traded two all-stars to championship contenders. The Dallas Mavericks acquired point guard Kyrie Irving, and the Phoenix Suns added superstar forward Kevin Durant. The Clippers knew they needed to make a bold move to compete with the top teams in the West, which is why they turned to Westbrook.
Westbrook is a nine-time NBA all-star who won the MVP in the 2016-17 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged 22.5 points, 8.4 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game over his 15-season career.
As the sixth man on the Lakers this season, Westbrook averaged 15.9 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.2 rebounds off the bench.
Betting the Clippers Down the Stretch
The Clippers (33-28) are currently in fourth place in the Western Conference standings and nine games behind the top-seeded Denver Nuggets (41-18).
The Western Conference has 10 teams in the middle of the standings jockeying for playoff positions. Only five games separate the Clippers in fourth place and the Lakers in 13th place, so there are no throw-away games in the final quarter of the season. That’s because nearly every game has playoff implications.
The Clippers are also in the hunt for a Pacific Division title. The Sacramento Kings (32-25) sit in first place with a one-game lead over the Clippers and a 1.5-game lead over the Phoenix Suns (32-28). The Suns are the betting favorite at DraftKings to win the Pacific Division for the third straight season at -140 odds, followed by the Clippers (+230) and Kings (+475).
In Western Conference futures, the Clippers are the third-highest team on the board at +450 odds. They trail the Suns (+235) and Nuggets (+390).
The Clippers are +900 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship as the fifth-highest team on the futures board. FiveThirtyEight projects the Clippers will finish with a 45-37 record, but they have only a 5% chance to advance to the NBA Finals, with a 2% chance of winning the championship.
The Clippers weren’t a lucrative betting team this season. They had a 31-30 record against the spread, but they had a good spurt prior to the All-Star break with a 9-4 ATS record.
The Clippers have only 21 remaining games in the regular season, but it’s the second most difficult schedule in the NBA. Opponents have a combined .523 winning percentage, and the Clippers play six games against the top three teams in the Western Conference.
Westbrook Stays in LA
Westbrook didn’t actually leave the City of Angeles after the Lakers traded him to the Utah Jazz. He remained in Los Angeles while his agent and the Jazz hammered out a contract buyout.
The Clippers were able to take a flier on Westbrook without having to give up draft capital. It’s a slick gamble that could pay off if Westbrook can quickly mesh with small forward Kawhi Leonard and shooting guard Paul George. If Westbrook ends up a bust with the Clippers, at least the team didn’t squander any draft picks or have to worry about his future salary. Westbrook becomes a free agent in the off-season.
Bill Plaschke, a beat writer with the LA Times, thinks the Clippers made a foolish mistake that mirrors a similar miscalculation from the Lakers. In the summer of 2021, the Lakers acquired Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, and the team has been in shambles since that trade.
Russell Westbrook was so much trouble, the Lakers traded a first-round draft pick just to get rid of him,” wrote Plaschke in his latest column.
Westbrook was unable to get in sync with LeBron James and Anthony Davis from the Lakers. Plaschke and a vocal faction of fans think that history will repeat itself with the Clippers, and Westbrook will be unable to fit in with Leonard and George.
George developed a strong bond with Westbrook as teammates for two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. George averaged a career-high 28 points per game in 2018-19 while playing alongside Westbrook.
“We can run with him and that’s kind of our game, is spacing the floor,” said George.