Now that we have moved past the madness of the 2023 NBA trade deadline, the focus will switch to the buyout market. Over the years, the buyout market has become a much more significant factor as teams have been more willing to buy out players, especially older players who want to finish the season on a winning team.
The buyout market this season is not as deep as in years past. This season's list includes John Wall, Patrick Beverley, Serge Ibaka, and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was part of the Los Angles Laker's trade deadline restructuring. Westbrook was sent to the Utah Jazz in a three-team trade that returned the Lakers, D'Angelo Russell.
To no one’s surprise, reports immediately started to surface that Westbrook would not be playing for the Jazz and would seek a buyout at some point. We now have more clarity on potential landing spots for the future Hall Of Famer. Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Westbrook camp has been in contact with several teams.
.@wojespn reports that Russell Westbrook has communicated with the Bulls, Clippers, Wizards and Heat about possible buyout destinations.— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 16, 2023
(via NBA Countdown) pic.twitter.com/CTwVTX00cb
With a list of teams reportedly interested in Westbrook's services, let's rank from worst to best which team is a better fit for the former MVP.
4. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat have dealt with injuries all season. They have had multiple lineups and recently have been without Kyle Lowry, who has missed the last six games. However, his production has declined even when Lowry has been in the lineup. He has had his lowest scoring output since 2009-10 and has seen his minutes decline recently.
The Heat have used Max Strus and Gabe Vincent at different times running the point, but with Lowry's decline in production and increased injury history, Westbrook could fill in at the point guard position.
The issue is Westbrook does not help spread the court and doesn't work well off the ball. The Heat aren't a team that is iso heavy. Westbrook could run the bench unit just like he did for the Lakers, but it's unclear if Westbrook is still willing to come off the bench.
3. Chicago Bulls
After another second-half collapse where they blew a 20-point lead on the road to the Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls are now 11th in the Eastern Conference, losers of five straight. They have been without Lonzo Ball since January 15th, and it doesn't sound like Ball will be back soon.
The Bulls, who started the season with high hopes, have completely fallen apart in the last few weeks. Some thought the Bulls front office would blow up the team and start to trade away veterans, but that didn't happen. Despite the recent struggles, the Bulls are only two games in the loss column out of the 10th spot. Westbrook would, in all likelihood, have a starting spot with the Bulls.
At this point, expectations aren't high for the Bulls, so Westbrook may be able to join the team and not have the same pressure. As, say, with the Clippers or the immense pressure he was under with the Lakers.
2. Los Angles Clippers
Paul George has made it clear that he would love for Westbrook to join the Clippers. The Clippers were also busy during the trade deadline as they traded for Bones Hyland from the Denver Nuggets and Eric Gordon from the Houston Rockets. Neither is necessarily a true point guard, and Gordon will probably play more minutes at shooting guard and small forward, but both have spent time filling in at point guard this season.
Hyland, of the two, is more likely to get minutes at the point, and with the upside he brings, the Clippers would be inclined to see what he has to finish this season. The Clippers also still have Terance Mann, who has started multiple games at the point. With all that said, Westbrook would still be the best point guard on the team.
We saw the success George had with Westbrook as a teammate. George had his best overall season in 2018-19, his second and final season with the Thunder. George and Kawhi Leonard aren’t as ball dominant as LeBron James, which is part of what made the fit between Westbrook and James so rough. Of course, it isn't a guarantee that Westbrook time with the Clippers will work out any better than his time with the Lakers, but at the very least, we know they are willing to make it work.
1. Washington Wizards
A familiar destination makes my number 1 destination for Westbrook. The Washington Wizards and Westbrook had a brief but primarily successful run together in the 2020-21 season. Westbrook joined the Wizards after his trade from the Rockets in exchange for John Wall. Westbrook helped lead the team to a playoff spot and finished the season averaging a triple-double.
The Wizards would be another team with low expectations, but he would still have a chance to help them get into the playoff. The Wizards are currently holding the last play-in spot and have improved since Westbrook's time with the team. They added Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma(who was part of the Westbrook trade to the Lakers). Both players have had good seasons and may benefit from having Westbrook at the point.
The Wizards are currently running Monte Morris at the point guard position, and he has done a decent job, but he isn't a game-changer. So Westbrook could get his starting position back and play in a familiar place where he recently thrived.
Even with his recent struggles, Westbrook will have teams willing to take a chance on Westbrook, as he has shown at different times this year that he can still have a positive impact. What team can he not only have a positive impact on but still have a prominent role to end the season? One thing is for sure is that any team that signs Westbrook will have an interesting second half of the season.