Going into the regular season, Russell Westbrook was regarded as the third-best player on the LA Clippers. Though star sixth man Norman Powell made a strong case, Westbrook's hall-of-fame resume gave him the clear edge. His performances in the 2023 postseason also gave the fans no reason to believe otherwise.
Furthermore, through the Clippers' first five games, the former MVP averaged 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and seven assists while shooting 51.6% from the field. Not to mention, his defensive impact was off the charts for Head Coach Tyronn Lue.
Prior to the start of November, the Clippers made the move for James Harden, which completely changed the role for Westbrook, especially on the offensive end. Moreover, in Harden's first five games with LA, Westbrook was still scoring at ease, but the Clippers hadn't won a single game. This was a sign that a change was coming.
On the morning of November 17th, senior NBA Insider Chris Haynes reported that Westbrook had requested to come off the bench, which gave the starting spot to Terance Mann the following night. This was the turning point where the Clippers found their groove in the stacked Western Conference.
The winning mindset of Russell Westbrook has allowed the Clippers to take control of the Western Conference
Since Russell Westbrook's first game off the bench, the Clippers have won ten games and only lost three, with wins against some of the best teams in the league. However, Westbrook's minutes and production have decreased significantly.
Throughout the Clippers' last 13 games, the South LA native has averaged 9.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in only 20.6 minutes. This is a big change for a player many consider a top-five point guard of all time. Conversely, Westbrook has responded in the best way possible.
Despite his minutes and scoring, Westbrook's energy from the jump has remained consistent. He is constantly crashing the glass, diving for loose balls, and making plays for his teammates by any means possible. Defensively, he uses his generational athleticism and quick feet to lock down whoever stands ahead.
That said, Westbrook's impact this season has flown entirely under the radar. Though his numbers may not jump out, he crushes the eye test, which is extremely important when evaluating players. He is arguably the main reason the Clippers are the hottest team in the NBA.