Russell Westbrook’s move to the bench, explained: Why Clippers are making lineup change after James Harden trade

The Clippers are shaking things up.

Since acquiring James Harden from the 76ers, the Clippers have lost six straight games, placing them in the bottom half of the Western Conference standings. In an effort to end their streak, they’re making a change to their starting lineup by moving Russell Westbrook to the bench.

Westbrook is in his second season with the Clippers. He joined the franchise after being waived from the Jazz, who acquired the nine-time All-Star from the Lakers in a trade deadline deal.

What led to the decision to bring Westbrook off the bench? Here’s what we know.

MORE: Inside the stats for Clippers’ winless start with James Harden

Why is Russell Westbrook coming off the bench?

According to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, Westbrook requested to come off the bench to help the starting lineup develop chemistry and provide the second with “spirited play.” Westbrook is said to have told the coaching staff that he wants to do whatever it takes to win.

The Clippers have struggled in a big way since acquiring Harden. As The Sporting News’ Gilbert McGregor detailed, the team had a top-five offense and defense prior to the trade. Since then, they’ve plummeted to ranking 27th in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency. LA’s second unit has been quiet in that same period, ranking 27th in the league in scoring.

“This is my toughest challenge as a head coach, but I’m up for the task for sure,” head coach Lue recently told Bleacher Report. “The biggest thing is getting these guys to sacrifice for guys, whether that’s starting the game, finishing the game, shots, touches, who’s running pick-and-rolls, and things like that. Getting these guys to sacrifice will be the biggest challenge all season.”

Terance Mann will replace Westbrook in the starting lineup, per Haynes. Mann isn’t a high-volume 3-point shooter, but he’s been a more accurate one than Westbrook in his career (38.1 percent compared to 30.5 percent). He’s also not as ball-dominant, which should make him a more seamless fit next to Harden, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. 

Westbrook started in his first 31 games with the Clippers. He last came off the bench in the 2022-23 season when he was with the Lakers. In 49 games as the team’s sixth man, he averaged 16.2 points, 7.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds on .424/.308/.649 shooting splits.

How Russell Westbrook’s move to bench impacts Clippers’ depth chart

Here’s what the Clippers’ depth chart looks like with Westbrook moving to the bench:

  • PG: James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Bones Hyland
  • SG: Terance Mann, Norman Powell
  • SF: Paul George, Amir Coffey
  • PF: Kawhi Leonard, P.J. Tucker
  • C: Ivica Zubac, Daniel Theis, Mason Plumlee

Westbrook will now lead a second unit that features Powell and Theis, who will reportedly sign with the Clippers after he clears waivers following his buyout with the Pacers. Theis will replace Plumlee as Zubac’s backup.

Plumlee recently suffered a left knee MCL sprain and could miss months with the injury.

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