Between free agency starting in a few days, the draft being less than 48 hours away, and trade talks surrounding the entire league, the NBA offseason is in full force.
One of the hottest stories right now is what the Los Angeles Lakers are going to do to get back to championship contention, and it seems like the answer may be trading for Russell Westbrook.
A nine-time All-Star and former MVP, Westbrook is the most unique player in the entire league; he has averaged a triple-double in four of the last five seasons and is fresh off of a season in which he went for 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds on a nightly basis.
Despite his successes, his fit on the Lakers is far from a guarantee, so here are the reasons that he would and would not work in the purple and gold.
Russell Westbrook Would Work on the Lakers
If there is one area of the game that Westbrook is familiar with, it is having the ball in his hands. The 32-year-old point guard has dominated usage rate since he was handed the reigns in Oklahoma City and would be able to spell a 36-year-old LeBron James that is looking to spend more time off the ball, just as he did in Cleveland.
“Brodie” also has experience teaming with different stars throughout the league, having partnered with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Bradley Beal in the past, though lining up alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis would be a new high for him.
Westbrook also has connections to his would-be teammates through Team USA and All-Star events and would make sense in that aspect. His arrival would also likely signify the end of Dennis Schroder and Kyle Kuzma’s time in LA, both of which the Lakers are looking to move off of as soon as they can.
In terms of on-court play, Westbrook plays with an unrivaled tenacity that would help the Lakers bring back some of the “nasty” they lost when Dwight Howard and Javale McGee were not re-signed. He has also proven his ability to score, rebound, and assist the rock as either the primary or secondary ball-handler.
The current Washington Wizard has only reached one NBA Finals in his career and will be desperate to get back, meaning that he would play with every ounce of energy he has for the purple and gold; meanwhile, the Lakers looked lifeless to close out their season, and desperately need somebody exciting with takeover ability to come into their lineup.
Russell Westbrook Would Not Work on the Lakers
For all of his incredible qualities, Westbrook can be a disaster in many different scenarios; he is a career 30.5% three-point shooter that has recently lost his touch from the charity stripe, going 68.9% at the line over the past three seasons after maintaining an 81.4% average for 10 years prior.
The former UCLA Bruin has also led the NBA in turnovers in four separate seasons, including the most recent one. If he is not in his rhythm, he can be entirely out of control as he careens towards the hoop with little regard for the safety of the basketball.
On top of these on-court failures, he has not handled expectations terribly well as the leader of a franchise; while he has made many clutch buckets and driven his team beyond where many thought possible, he has also sent his team packing with ill-advised shots and turnovers that would cost a team like the Lakers an appearance in the Finals.
So, Does He Fit or Not?
As exciting of an experiment as it would be to add Westbrook to a team that already won a championship without much in the way of floor spacing, it would not be worth the investment. Westbrook’s near-$50 million annual contract would price the Lakers out of getting any significant role players unless they sign for the minimum, which the franchise should be prioritizing over adding another MVP-caliber player.
While Westbrook provides intangibles that nobody else in the NBA does, they do not outweigh the risk associated with bringing him in; he is box office material, but he just does not fit the team.
LA will have to keep searching for their next point guard while the Wizards decide whether or not they blow up their roster.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.
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