The Clippers are making significant changes to their lineup in an effort to turn things around. Ever since acquiring James Harden from the 76ers, the team has experienced a six-game losing streak, which has dropped them to the lower rankings of the Western Conference standings. To shake things up and hopefully end their losing streak, the Clippers have decided to move Russell Westbrook to the bench.
Westbrook, who is in his second season with the Clippers, joined the team after being waived by the Jazz, who had acquired him from the Lakers in a trade deadline deal. So, what led to the decision of bringing Westbrook off the bench? Here's what we know.
According to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, Westbrook himself requested to come off the bench in order to help the starting lineup develop better chemistry and to provide a spirited boost to the second unit. Westbrook is known for his competitive nature and he expressed to the coaching staff that he wants to do whatever it takes to win.
The Clippers have experienced a significant decline since acquiring Harden. Prior to the trade, the team had a top-five offense and defense. However, since the trade, their offensive efficiency has dropped to 27th in the league and their defensive efficiency has dropped to 25th, as highlighted by Gilbert McGregor of The Sporting News. Additionally, the second unit of the Clippers has been relatively quiet during this period, ranking 27th in the league in scoring.
Head coach Lue recently acknowledged that this is one of the toughest challenges he has faced as a coach, but he is determined to find a solution. He emphasized the importance of getting the players to sacrifice for the greater good of the team, whether that means starting or coming off the bench, sharing the ball, or adjusting their playing styles. This will be the biggest challenge for the team throughout the season.
Terance Mann will be taking Westbrook's place in the starting lineup, as reported by Haynes. Although Mann is not known for being a high-volume 3-point shooter, he does have a more accurate shooting percentage than Westbrook, making him a better fit alongside Harden, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. Mann is also less ball-dominant, which should contribute to better overall team chemistry.
Prior to this move, Westbrook had started in the first 31 games with the Clippers. The last time he came off the bench was during the 2022-23 season when he played for the Lakers. In 49 games as a sixth man, Westbrook averaged 16.2 points, 7.7 assists, and 6.1 rebounds with shooting splits of .424/.308/.649.
With Westbrook now leading the second unit, he will be joined by Norman Powell and Daniel Theis, who is expected to sign with the Clippers once he clears waivers following his buyout with the Pacers. Theis will replace Mason Plumlee as the backup center to Ivica Zubac. Unfortunately, Plumlee recently suffered a left knee MCL sprain and could be out of action for several months.
In summary, the Clippers are hoping that Westbrook's move to the bench will spark positive change within the team. With Mann taking his place in the starting lineup, the team aims to develop better chemistry and improve their performance on both ends of the court. The depth chart will see adjustments with Powell and Theis joining the second unit, while Plumlee's injury opens up an opportunity for Theis to become Zubac's backup. The Clippers are determined to overcome their recent struggles and get back on track for a successful season.