Breaking Down Russell Westbrook’s Move to the Lakers
Russell Westbrook is now a Los Angeles Laker after being traded along with two future 2nd round picks for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd pick.
With the addition of Russell Westbrook, the Lakers have officially joined the superteam tier, and LeBron is now part of his third bonafide, “Big Three.” With this move, the Wizards are now younger and hopefully will start to rebuild by trading Beal in the upcoming weeks.
The Wizards have been a team in no man's land for far too long, and now that the short-lived, failed Westbrook experiment is over, it’s time for them to rebuild. A team in no man’s land is usually a 7th to 12th seed that has no chance of truly contending and also has no chance of getting a high lottery pick, and they usually have a loyal franchise centerpiece that they don’t want to part with (Blazers, Timberwolves). This is the worst position for a franchise to be in as they’re typically just waiting for one year of luck, which rarely amounts to anything. And, the franchise centerpiece wastes their career without having any team success to show for the many years spent on the same team. Ideally, before Beal ends up as one of these lost talents, the Wizards should trade him to a team like the Warriors looking to contend now.
Acquiring a player like Kyle Kuzma is fantastic for a young team like Washington, as Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma have the opportunity to share the ball and develop together. After brilliant rookie and sophomore season campaigns, Kuzma struggled to work well with Anthony Davis and was in desperate need of a change. Kuzma is still only 26 years old and will have an excellent opportunity to flourish in the capital.
Los Angeles Lakers:
For the first time in his career, LeBron looked vulnerable in 2021. The playoffs served as a wake-up call for the Lakers front office, and they realized that they needed to make a move urgently. This is the new reality for Los Angeles as James will turn 37 this summer, and the days of expecting him to single-handedly carry a team to the Finals year in and year out are behind us. In addition, having an injury-prone running mate, in Anthony Davis, simply did not cut it, so with the window of contention closing rapidly, the Lakers pulled the trigger and brought in 2017 NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook.
This move seemed like it was made out of desperation more than anything.
Westbrook is simply a very questionable fit in this Lakers system. I understand that many people believe that he will serve well as a secondary ball-handler, taking some pressure off of LeBron. But will he really? For almost every season Westbrook has been in the league, he has had the highest usage rate on his team, including Kevin Durant’s 2014 MVP season. When he was in Houston, Westbrook was the secondary ball-handler, but that resulted in the Rockets getting ousted out of the second round by none other than LeBron and the Lakers.
Now, what if Westbrook played as the primary ballhandler? Though it sounds odd to think LeBron has to defer to Westbrook on offense, this is probably the Lakers’ best bet at succeeding as LeBron has some history with deferring to guards while still playing at a high level.
On Thursday, the tweet above went viral as Twitter user: @nyk_lxke joked that “the three point line” would stop the new-look Lakers. However, there is a lot of truth to that statement. Since the astronomical rise of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, the NBA has flipped to a three-point shooting league. But as constructed now, none of the Lakers’ stars are knockdown three-point shooters. This is a massive issue for LA, as, without the offensive firepower to outscore the opposition, they’ll need to play elite defense, something that, at this point in their careers, only Anthony Davis can provide.
So in this offseason, the Lakers have a lot of work to do. Not only do they need great defenders, but they also need to sign a plethora of elite shooters to counteract the below-average shooters in their Big 3, which will be a Herculean task due to the $120 million locked up by Westbrook, Davis, and James in 2022.
So, though Los Angeles has one of the most talented Big 3s in the history of the NBA, I could see more ways that this experiment could go wrong than right. Mixing players like LeBron and Russ that have been alphas for their entire careers, is risky. However, the Lakers are led by one of the greatest players ever, and if anyone can make it work, it would be LeBron James.
My prediction for the 2022 Lakers is a 56–26 record and a second or third-round exit in the playoffs. A championship is definitely in the realm of possibility, but I don’t see the Lakers winning the chip unless other contenders face season-altering injuries.