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NBA Free Agency 2023: Russell Westbrook can still score, but doesn’t fit with the Mavericks

Westbrook’s toughness would help the Mavericks, but basketball-wise he doesn’t fit.

Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The list of needs for the Dallas Mavericks runs pretty long, and their options to fill them are limited. Dallas needs more shooting, better wing defenders, rim protection, more depth, and veteran leadership. Russell Westbrook is an option for the Mavericks this offseason, but just doesn’t make sense for their roster considering his style of play.

In life, our greatest strengths can become our weaknesses. That holds true in basketball as well, and the things that have made Westbrook great are also holding him back as he enters the sunset phase of his career. Westbrook was an explosive athlete in his prime and attacked the rim relentlessly. He still has some of that burst, but it’s not elite anymore, and his inability to shoot makes him easier to defend.

Westbrook showed in the playoffs he can still add value to a contender, but the fit has to be right. And as constructed, the Mavericks aren’t that type of team.

The Basics

The Los Angeles Lakers traded Westbrook to the Utah Jazz at the deadline last season. The Jazz promptly bought out his contract, and Westbrook signed with the Los Angeles Clippers for the playoffs. He’s an unrestricted free agent, and likely not at a place in his career where he’s willing to accept a minimum contract. But it’s impossible to project what kind of contract he’ll get.


As already mentioned, Westbrook is still one of the most explosive players in the NBA. He can get to the rim at will most nights and has a nice pullup jump shot in the midrange. Westbrook has good size for a guard, which he utilizes on drives to the basket and on defense.

Westbrook averaged 15.9 points per game last season, the lowest since his rookie season with the Thunder. But when the playoffs rolled around, he turned back the clock, averaging 23.6 points per game. Westbrook even got his 3-point shot going, shooting 36 percent from deep on almost six attempts per game. He showed flashes of the old Westbrook, even if it was only for five games.


Westbrook struggles to shoot, and it’s tough to have a guard on the floor that can’t shoot in today’s NBA. For the season, he only shot 31 percent on threes. Defenses routinely sagged off of him on the perimeter, and while he can still make them pay by getting a runway to the rim, Westbrook can’t finish at the rim like he could in his prime. He also has a tendency to just stand still on offense when he doesn’t have the ball, instead of cutting to the rim or relocating on the court.

Westbrook has a well-deserved reputation for being a bit drowsy on defense. He’ll often ball-watch and lose his man, giving up easy layups or open shots. With his size and athleticism, he should be a much better defender, but his lack of concentration continues to hinder him.

Fit with the Mavericks

Dallas can’t afford to have players surrounding Luka Doncic who don’t defend and struggle to shoot. Defenders would ignore Westbrook on offense, creating more traffic in the lane for Doncic. And the Mavericks can’t afford to have a negative defender on the court with Doncic, who already struggles to focus on that end. Then there’s the fact that Westbrook is best with the ball in his hands, and the Mavericks’ offense will always be best running through Doncic.

Theoretically, Westbrook could run the bench unit, providing 15-20 minutes of scoring when the starters sit. But it’s unlikely he’d accept that role at this point, especially for a team as far away from competing for a title as the Mavericks. The fit just isn’t right, and both parties should look somewhere else for a match.