Breaking Down The Addition Of Russell Westbrook To The Lakers Roster
Breaking Down The Addition Of Russell Westbrook To The Lakers Roster
As I’m sure you are all aware, Russell Westbrook is heading to the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster trade.
Unlike most trades, Westbrook’s arrival in L.A. raises perhaps more questions than it answers on the surface.
With that being said, let’s break down exactly what this move means.
1: THE LAKERS UPGRADED AT THE POINT GUARD POSITION
Let’s get something out of the way first and foremost, and that is that Westbrook is undeniably an upgrade over Dennis Schroder is nearly every aspect at the point guard position.
Westbrook may have his well-publicized flaws that are warranted, but it’s safe to assume he will never be quite as poor as Schroder was against the Phoenix Suns.
2. THE FIT
For anyone that has followed the league over the past decade, It’s obvious that a trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook is not a natural basketball fit stylistically.
Some would go as far to say that it’s an uncomfortable fit or an illogical one, however I’m not quite as pessimistic for reasons we’ll get into.
The fact is no one in this trio is a born floor spacer, and the fact James remains unquestionably the best long range shooter of the three is worrisome on face value.
Given James is usually the guy is finding three-point shooters, this is not ideal from a spacial standpoint.
3. DONT JUDGE THE FIT JUST YET
The reason why I am not as concerned as others when assessing this trio together, is because to fully determine their potential together we must first see the surrounding pieces.
The truth is this trio will be as great as the floor spacing around them, and it’s glaringly obvious that the Lakers need to be targeting as many shooters and “3 & D” guys as humanly possible.
4. THE OTHER GUYS
Did I mention the Lakers need shooters?
Oh I did, great.
The front office included Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the deal for Westbrook, and in doing so, the Lakers said goodbye to their best three-point shooter (percentage wise anyway).
The problem is, if KCP is your best shooter, there’s a bigger problem at hand given his inconsistent output. The good news is, the Lakers know this, and proved so with their relentless pursuit of Buddy Hield from Sacramento.
Accordingly, the Lakers will now canvas the league for guys that will give James, Davis and Westbrook as much room to operate as possible.
Names such as J.J. Reddick, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, Svi Mykhailiuk have all been mentioned, as well as Wes Matthews and Ben McLemore returning.
The Lakers and free agent Carmelo Anthony also have interest, and a mixture of any of those names will do alongside the new Big 3.
5. A GENUINE BIG THREE
Speaking of Big Threes, the Lakers now have one – a genuine one, that can compete with Brooklyn’s.
The questions constantly surrounding the duo of James and Davis was “who is going to be the third guy?”. Even when the Lakers won a championship in 2020, those questions lingered. Now, there is no question.
The luxury of having a big three is clear role framework, and whilst the big three itself will need to fine tune their individual roles, the “other guys” know exactly what they need to bring to the table to support their stars.
6. THE LAKERS ARE GOING ALL IN
This goes without saying, but the Lakers have pushed all their chips to the middle of the table with the Westbrook acquisition.
The Kyle Kuzma experiment is over, Dennis Schroder won’t be coming back, Montrezl Harrell’s inability to guard the pick-and-roll in the playoffs handed him his marching orders, and the roster could no longer guess if KCP would make shots when it matters.
The Lakers also gave up their 22nd draft pick on the evening, and will have to accept the hefty luxury tax bill.
They did manage to land some second rounders in the exchange, but it’s evident they’re going all in to maximize LeBron’s championship window, and you can’t blame them for that.
7. DEVASTATING IN TRANSITION
Another reason why the uneasy fit between trio may be overstated is because the Lakers could potentially transform into one of the greatest transition teams in league history.
With James and Westbrook, the ability to run the floor, push the ball and attack the rim is frankly terrifying for opposition, and mouth watering for Lakers’ fans who can expect showtime plays each and every night.
Davis can also rebound and handle with his guard skills, and with shooters surrounding the Big 3, the Lakers could be simply unstoppable in transition when they’re clicking.
8. WESTBROOK IS AD’S INSURANCE POLICY
The fact of the matter is, Anthony Davis’ health cannot be trusted every season.
He was relatively healthy during the Lakers’ championship run in 2020, but his health that season was an anomaly.
On the other hand, Westbrook is always available, and his arrival gives the Lakers an insurance policy if one of their stars goes down, and the ability to manage both James (who will be 37 in December) and Davis throughout the campaign with a higher margin for error.
9. EXTENDING LEBRON’S CAREER
An underrated factor in all of this is impact Westbrook’s arrival will have on LeBron James, and his continued longevity.
James hasn’t played with a ball handler of Westbrook’s stature since 2017 when he shared a locker room with Kyrie Irving.
Yes the Lakers had Rajon Rondo, but he was coming off the bench in a limited role, and on the backend of his career. He’s also nowhere near the player Westbrook is right now.
With Westbrook’s high motor, his ability to be a primary ball handler, and his comfort to dominate the ball on offense, James can pick and choose his moments.
In doing so, James can play off the ball, play more in the post and ease the overall load. He will still be the Lakers’ main man, but the ability to keep him fresh and lessen his workload could add years to James’ career.
10. THE ALTERNATIVES
Some around the league are low on this trade due to other point guards the Lakers could have potentially landed this offseason.
We’ve already covered Schroder, but there were talks of Chris Paul, Lonzo Ball, Ricky Rubio, Kyle Lowry and Spencer Dinwiddie all as potential targets.
Out of the bunch, the only suitors that could truly rival Westbrook’s ability currently are Paul and Lowry.
In reality, both Paul and Lowry make more sense for the Lakers from a fit standpoint, however Paul has a history of breaking down in the postseason, and there are genuine questions on whether Lowry is the same player he once was during his best days in Toronto.
With that in mind, the Lakers probably secured the best available talent that was out there at the point guard position.
11. CAN YOU WIN WITH WESTBROOK?
The biggest question surrounding Westbrook’s legacy is if you can realistically win a championship with him. You can definitely compete for a championship, but can you REALLY win?
There’s arguments for both sides, but as of right now, history has shown us it might be difficult if he is your best or second best player.
We have never seen Westbrook as the third guy though, and whilst his numbers will probably suggest he’s the Lakers engine during the regular season, he will be the third most important player for the franchise when it matters most.
With that, Westbrook’s flaws could be covered by the greatness of both James and Davis, who cover teams’ deficiencies better than most in the league.
James has a long-standing resume of maximizing player’s that have undesirable traits (Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo in recent memory), and Davis’ skill set on both ends of the floor reduces the margin for error tremendously.
It’s also important to note that the trio have great chemistry off the floor, and have been good friends for some time.
The undeniable fact is the Lakers upgraded in talent, and if there is any two guys in the league that could find ways to make up for Westbrook’s shortcomings, it’s probably James and Davis.