Russell Westbrook is a hall-of-famer. Last year, he was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team as one of the Top 75 players in league history. He holds the record for the most triple doubles in NBA history with 198 and counting.
So why has he been on five teams in the last five seasons?
Seriously. What's up with Russ?
Russ's Nomadic NBA Adventure
Russ spent the first 11 seasons of his career playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was named to 8 All-Star teams and made an NBA Finals appearance early on in his tenure. Westbrook and Kevin Durant were one of the best dynamic duos in the league, and if not for a crazy Klay Thompson shooting display in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals, could have won a championship together.
But we know what happened. Durant left OKC for Golden State that summer, and the duo became a solo.
Westbrook stayed behind in OKC and carried an under-manned Thunder team, averaging 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game in the 2016-2017 season. He was the first player to average a triple-double for a season since Oscar Robertson in 1961-1962, and was named league MVP.
But the Westbrook Thunders did not have any real playoff success. And after a few years of having Steven Adams box guys out so Russ could get more rebounds, OKC decided to blow up their roster and start a rebuild. They sent Westbrook to Houston in exchange for Chris Paul and two first-round picks.
Houston, We Have A Whole Lotta Problems
The Westbrook-James Harden experiment in Houston was a drama-filled mess. On the court, the two didn't really make a ton of sense. Two guys who both need the ball to be successful, one of whom (Westbrook) who can't shoot. Off the court, Westbrook was not into Harden's party-first culture. The team won a 7 game series against the Thunder of all teams, before bowing out in five to the eventual bubble champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The carousel continued, and Westbrook was sent to the Wizards. A banishment to the obscurity of Washington is one of the worst fates you could wish upon a player, but all things considered, Westbrook actually handled it pretty well. He averaged another triple-double and even snuck the lowly Wizards into the playoffs, where they got smoked in five games by the Sixers.
An off-season trade to the Lakers made very little basketball sense as soon as it was completed. Los Angeles sent away all of their depth in exchange for Westbrook. LeBron James is perhaps the best player in basketball history. But we know what he needs to succeed: shooting. The weakest part of Westbrook's game: shooting. The Westbrook Lake show was a catastrophe from day one. Finally, the Lakers admitted their mistake this trade deadline, sending Russ to the Jazz.
Utah had no intention of playing Westbrook. And to be fair, Westbrook probably had little intention to play for Utah, given the way Jazz fans have treated him over the years.
The Clip Show
And so now he's on the Clippers. It's only been seven games, but early returns are... mixed. Westbrook is playing big minutes for LA, starting alongside Paul Geroge and Kawhi Leonard. His numbers are steady. He's not scoring in huge numbers like he used to, but his assist numbers are still very high.
But the Clippers just went on a five game losing streak, prompting online haters to proclaim that a team with Russell Westbrook just can't win.
The rest of the season could go a long way toward defining the late stages of Westbrook's career. Right now, he's at risk of going down as one of the least graceful aging superstars of all time, going from an MVP to a journeyman in the span of just a few years. But if Westbrook can contribute to a deep Clippers run, the script can totally flip.
Los Angeles has talent, good coaching, and a wealth of playoff experience. Kawhi is playing like one of the best players in the world again. If things break in a favorable way, you can see the Clippers climbing from the 6 seed past the struggling Memphis Grizzlies, into a matchup against possibly the Sacramento Kings, all the way into a Western Conference Finals.
Or. The Clippers get the five seed. The Suns hang on to the four seed. Durant comes back in time for the playoffs, and KD matches up against Westbrook in the first round of the playoffs.
Could be juicy. Will definitely be dramatic.
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