When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook last season, they expected to make it to the Finals and win the NBA championship. That is the complete opposite of what happened, as the team finished with a 33-49 record and missed the playoffs. For a franchise with as big of a reputation for winning as the Los Angeles Lakers, that is unacceptable. However, they still need to keep Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers will inevitably make moves this offseason. One route they have been considering is trading Russell Westbrook, who had one of his worst seasons in an otherwise historic Hall-of-Fame career. However, the Lakers should not trade him yet. Instead, they should keep him and try to compete for the title this season.
That might sound like a pretty bold take considering how inefficient Westbrook was in all areas of the game. However, the Lakers organization is going to find different pieces to play around their Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. They are going to be better than last season, even with Russ on the roster. Here are some of the reasons why the Lakers should keep Russell Westbrook.
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Too Many Changes Affected Him
In a typical Russell Westbrook season, we see him struggle in the first half of the season, then play remarkably and average a triple-double after the All-Star break. That was not the case last season, as his struggles and the struggles of the Lakers remained throughout the entire season. Some of this could be attributed to him being affected mentally and his age, but another reason was the lack of a consistent team surrounding him.
When a player joins a new team, it takes some time to adjust, especially if you are asked to do something different like Westbrook was. That is very difficult to do when the Lakers deal with injuries all year and test 39 different starting lineups. Westbrook is the type of player who needs consistency and continuity around him, but he didn’t get any last year due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols.
Health affected the Lakers more than anything. The Lakers played 21 total games with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. They went 11-10 in those games. That isn’t great, but it is still a positive record. The role players were hurt too.
The other players on the Lakers were either good shooters or good defenders, but rarely both. In terms of age, the Lakers were about as old as you could get. For that reason, you expect injuries. But even the young players were out. For example, Kendrick Nunn is only 26 and missed the whole season.
Russell Westbrook should expect at least a little more continuity next season. The Lakers roster is going to change and it will be filled with new role players who will be ready to play most of the season. Those who missed several games last year, like Anthony Davis, are going to work on conditioning to make sure they are more available.
It is also worth noting that the Lakers introduced a new head coach in Darvin Ham. It was clear that Russell Westbrook and Frank Vogel didn’t see eye-to-eye for whatever reason. That makes it difficult to trust the coaching, especially when Russ was being asked to do things he had hardly ever done before in his career, like play off the ball. With Darvin Ham, the Lakers should expect a fresher start with Westbrook as the point guard.
No Other Choice
Even if the Lakers wanted to trade him, they don’t have too many options. That’s why they should keep Russell Westbrook instead. Russ is making $47 million next year. Hardly anyone would want to take on that kind of contract for an aging player who has begun a decline. The Los Angeles Lakers would have a difficult time finding a trade partner for Russell Westbrook.
If they did find a way to trade away Westbrook, the team would likely get worse. Let’s be honest: Russell Westbrook is still a great player. It is extremely rare that a team trades away a star player and improves. Considering Westbrook’s trade value at this point in time, the Lakers would need to get very lucky to turn Russell Westbrook into a more valuable asset for a championship team.
The Lakers can’t afford that. When you have a generational talent like LeBron James on your team, you go all in and cash in all your chips. The time for the Lakers to win is from now until LeBron James leaves the team. With LeBron turning 38 in December, their window is closing.
Lakers, Keep Russell Westbrook
Last season, the Lakers went all in by adding a third star in Westbrook to the roster. It didn’t work out for them. They can only hope now that they can make enough roster moves to make the team gel and compete. They have no other choice.
Russell Westbrook is a future Hall-of-Famer. Last season wasn’t his best. However, as an all-time great, you have to expect Westbrook to bounce back in a big way. He is capable of doing more with the Lakers. Los Angeles should keep Russell Westbrook and expect a better season than last year.