Even with all the excitement for 2023 NBA All-Star weekend, everyone’s aware that the buyout market is in full swing. The final push to bolster your team for the upcoming playoff run is coming, so front offices are in alert, all bringing their A-game.
There’s a solid list of freshly minted free agents following the trade deadline, and some have signed into new teams, like athletic shooter Terrence Ross to the Phoenix Suns and scoring guard Reggie Jackson to the Denver Nuggets. Both are expected to further the respective squads’ depth and play a good chunk of minutes.
The pool remains to be fairly strong across all positions. In fact, one of the most intriguing players in the market, Russell Westbrook, is still undecided. Many questions surround the 2017 NBA MVP and the path he’s looking to take, and among that is the possibility of reuniting with his college teammate in UCLA, Kevin Love. Both would need to decide by March 1st.
The two starred together for the Bruins during the 2007-08 NCAA season and led the team to a Final Four berth in the tournament – Love as a heralded talent and projected one-and-done, and Westbrook as a sophomore who suddenly soared through everyone’s radar. They were selected consecutively in the 2008 NBA draft, Russ to the then-Seattle Supersonics and Love to the Memphis Grizzlies (later traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves).
Then, as we all know, they translated well in the NBA, so much so that even now as 35-year-olds and on the heels off a rough stretch in their careers, both are still sought-after. It speaks volumes on their value, whether as a low-end role player or a regular rotation guy.
Actually, in Westbrook’s case, everyone knew he was just a terrible fit with LeBron James and that Los Angeles Lakers team, which is also a wildcard organization at the moment. Such circumstances will take a lot out of anyone – not that Russ is without fault, though.
What’s good is Russ was able to show that he is a very willing team player when he welcomed a bench role and became good at it – one of the league’s best even. He became the Lake Show’s sixth man this season and put up 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists on 28.7 minutes per game. Also, whatever you may feel about the man, there’s no denying that he plays with a ton of heart every game.
It’s currently unclear if he is willing to come off the bench again. That may sound off to some considering his struggles, but as a former MVP who amassed a fourth triple-double season just two years ago, you can kind of understand the pride he has.
Nevertheless, Westbrook reportedly has plenty of suitors, namely the Chicago Bulls, LA Clippers, Miami Heat, and even his former team, the Washington Wizards.
The Clippers appear to be in the lead, given that they are in need of a point guard and Paul George is Russ’s ex-teammate with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The team’s pitch could be strong too:
As for K-Love, it’s a bit shocking that he chose this season to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s been with the franchise since 2014 and stayed despite the consecutive departures of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, followed by a long run of mediocrity in rebuilding the team. This year, the Cavs are overflowing with potential, fun to watch, and rank as one of the best defenses in the league, so who knows why he wants to bounce now? Maybe he’s retiring soon and wants the best shot at a title?
Love has decreased his scoring and rebounding in each of the last four seasons, and it’s now down to 8.5 points and 6.8 boards per game, but over that period, he has somewhat played the elder statesman role in Cleveland, and has also dwindled his minutes per game into the low 20s. He still has a sweet stroke from the outside and can still be a reliable spot-up shooter, aside from a reliable interior presence.
One of the rumoured destination for Love are the defending champion Golden State Warriors. It makes sense since the Dubs have more mileage in championship contention and he’ll be with his childhood buddy:
Will they join the same team?
There are teams who may be willing to acquire both, with the Miami being one of them. The Heat are dead-last in points and 28th in three-point shooting, so they need more established players that can create offense, like Westbrook, and designated shooters, like Love.
In any case, the next week or so will definitely be exciting. It’s one to watch out for because if they do and end up winning a ring together, it’ll be a hell of a story.