The Los Angeles Clippers’ Russell Westbrook experiment is off to a disastrous start. The Clippers fell to 0-4 since signing Westbrook in the buyout market after a blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night on TNT. Without Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins in the lineup, the Warriors devised a game-plan to completely ignore Westbrook when the Clippers had the ball, muck up LA’s spacing, and get their offense out of sync. It worked to perfection, and it came with some ugly clips for Westbrook’s sake.
The Warriors decided before the game that they would have Draymond “guard” Westbrook. We’re putting ‘guard’ in quotes there because Green wasn’t really defending anyone: he gave Westbrook at least 15-feet of space when he was on the perimeter, and dared the veteran point guard to beat him his jump shot. Westbrook shot 3-for-12 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range on the night.
This clip immediately went viral during the Warriors’ 115-91 win over the Clippers. Look at how much space Green chose to give Westbrook on this play.
Westbrook didn’t try to shoot often despite being left wide open. Here’s a clip from late in the fourth quarter when the Clippers had a chance to make one last run to keep the game competitive. Westbrook was unguarded as he brought the ball up the court, and chose to try to make an entry pass to Paul George in the post.
There were two problems: the extra bodies in the paint from the sagging defense made the pass more challenging, and Westbrook missed the mark. This was one of his four turnovers on the night. Then he lost track of Jordan Poole defensive on the next play for a back-breaking three-pointer on the ensuing possession.
When Westbrook did shoot, he was bricking everything. Here’s a clip from the fourth quarter when Westbrook was given two wide open corner threes, both of which he missed.
Westbrook did finish with six assists on the night. Here’s one nice entry pass to George for a bucket. Overall, though, this was his worst game as a Clipper.
Draymond Green talked about the Warriors plan to ignore Westbrook on offense after the game.
Green showed respect for Westbrook in his comments while also detailing exactly why this was an effective game-plan: basketball players are taught to shoot when they’re open, but when you’re left open every play, it starts to get in your head.
It would be unfair to solely pin all of the Clippers’ problems on Westbrook. Paul George finished 3-of-15 from the field and 1-of-8 from three-point range in the loss. Eric Gordon shot 2-of-10 from three. Norman Powell shot 0-of-7 from three. Westbrook could have had a lot more than six assists if the Clippers’ shooters were making anything.
At the same time, it’s becoming obvious Westbrook is not a helpful player unless he’s surrounded by a ton of shooting. Westbrook has now lost his last 14 games as a starter between his time with the Lakers and Clippers.
The Lakers are 5-3 since Westbrook was traded despite not having LeBron James and Anthony Davis for some of those games. The Clippers are still searching for their first win of the Westbrook era.
Westbrook is now shooting 29.5 percent from three and 67 percent from the free throw line this season across his time with both Los Angeles teams. It’s simply very difficult to fit a role player into a team scheme if they can’t shoot at all in the modern NBA. There’s a long history of athletic NBA point guards improving their jumper as they get older and lose their explosiveness. Unfortunately, Westbrook only seems to keep getting worse as a shooter.
The Clippers are now only one game over .500. They signed Westbrook because Paul George pushed them to do it. Remember, the Lakers traded for Westbrook because LeBron James pushed them to do it. The Clippers are in championship-or-bust mode this season in Year 4 of the Kawhi Leonard-George pairing. Right now, this doesn’t look like a championship team, and the move to sign Westbrook doesn’t appear to be helping them.