NBA Rumors: This playoff team is now the leader to land Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images) /

Free agent point guard Russell Westbrook had a roller-coaster 2022–23 season. He started the season with the Los Angeles Lakers but was later traded to the Utah Jazz in a big trade deadline deal after being blamed for their struggles. He was later waived by the Jazz and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers.

There, Westbrook played surprisingly well, averaging an impressive 15.8 points on 48.9% shooting, 7.6 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game. He helped the Clippers compete despite having their two best players miss time. Despite his resurgent run with the Clippers, a recent rumor suggests that he may not return next season. In fact, the New York Knicks appear to be the leaders to land him.

Will the Knicks land Russell Westbrook this summer?

The Knicks are coming off their best season in a decade and came within two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. While they already have Jalen Brunson, who was arguably their best player this season, Westbrook may still be able to help. For all of his flaws, he showed a willingness to play different roles and is still more than capable of big performances that can swing games.

If Westbrook is really willing to leave the Clippers, the Knicks could use a player like that as they try to build on their success next season. There could be one potential barrier to him joining the Knicks, however. According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Westbrook could be seeking around the full mid-level exception (MLE), which is about $12 million a season, something that neither the Knicks nor Clippers can offer.

Only a few teams have enough cap space or the full MLE, and most of them are rebuilding, meaning they probably wouldn’t have an interest in Westbrook. That limits his choices to playoff teams, many of whom only have the tax-payer MLE, worth about $5 million. If that is the case, then the Clippers still have a chance or even another team such as the Miami Heat.

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All in all, it seems that Westbrook may not return to the Clippers next season despite thriving in his short stint there. That could pave the way for a team such as the Knicks or another playoff team to sign him.