Should the New Orleans Pelicans pursue Russell Westbrook in free agency?

Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

NBA Free Agency is quickly approaching, and for the New Orleans Pelicans, this go around will be all about bolstering their team around their nucleus of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Trey Murphy III.

One name at the top of Spotrac’s Free Agency Tracker is Russell Westbrook, who, at 34 years of age, is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

After an underwhelming year and a half stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, Westbrook was traded to the Utah Jazz, only to then be bought out of his contract and signed by the Los Angeles Clippers. From there, Westbrook experienced a mini-resurgence, averaging 15.8 PPG and 7.6 APG on 56.2% True Shooting during his 21 regular season games with the Clippers.

So, should the Pelicans pursue Westbrook as a potential target in free agency? As we have with our other posts like this, we will leave the salary cap ramifications to the experts and focus on answering this question from a strictly on-court perspective.

It really all comes down to what type of role Westbrook is willing to accept. If he wants to be an everyday starter, the answer to the question would likely be no. Westbrook has lost too much athleticism to make the negative features of his game worth stomaching for extended stretches on a team with championship aspirations (which the Pelicans should have based on the talent they possess).

However, if Westbrook is willing to primarily come off the bench and spot start if/when the Pelicans are dealing with the injury bug (which was quite often this season), he could be a pretty intriguing addition.

Even at his advanced age, Westbrook was in the 96th percentile last season during his time with the Clippers (per Cleaning the Glass). As we’ve said before, one of the Pelicans’ major weaknesses as a team is that they don’t have much rim pressure outside of Williamson. Westbrook could provide this element when Williamson is off the floor or if he is missing time with injury.

Overall, Westbrook’s ball-handling, passing, and rim pressure should be helpful for buoying the offense during the times that they don’t have Williamson (something New Orleans struggled heavily with this season).

Also, Westbrook flashed some impressive defensive chops during the Clippers’ first-round matchup against the Phoenix Suns. There, he was pestering the likes of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant with his active and accurate hands.

As long as they don’t have reliable rim protection, the Pelicans’ defensive success will be contingent on their ability to force turnovers (they were sixth in opponent turnover percentage last season), so Westbrook would theoretically fit nicely into that as well (if he’s as engaged as he was in the Suns’ series).

So, there you have it. The answer to the Westbrook question is: it depends!

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