When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook, the franchise spoke nothing but optimism. Oh, how quickly things have changed with the Lakers tittering in the back end of the Western Conference playoff picture despite LeBron James still proving he’s an ageless wonder.
Thursday’s trade deadline passed with the Lakers failing to make a move to improve the roster and fuel a postseason push. Beyond that, the lack of movement signals that the franchise will risk wasting James’ greatness by foolishly trusting Westbrook.
Lakers stand pat at the trade deadline
The NBA trade deadline came and went with plenty of movement across the league.
However, the Lakers were not part of the shuffling due to the lack of significant interest in their assets. The Athletics‘ Bill Oram reported that Los Angeles’ efforts weren’t met with any feasible deals.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, the Lakers held every intention of improving the roster. The front office gauged the market for interest in Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker. Los Angeles also failed to garner draft assets for veterans DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore.
The franchise faced the reality that no other team wanted to engage in serious trade discussions. The quiet trade deadline also indicated another fate they have to accept.
The Lakers are wasting LeBron James’ greatness by foolishly trusting Russell Westbrook
The Lakers’ inactivity at the trade deadline speaks to more than possessing unattractive assets.
Los Angeles’ lack of movement shifts the dialogue to Russell Westbrook’s future in Los Angeles. He’s guaranteed to stay through at least the rest of the 2021-22 campaign. Where things become interesting is his $47 million player option for next season.
Before things can reach that point, everything must harken back to the Lakers’ decision to acquire Westbrook. James played a significant part in helping facilitate that move that gave the nine-time All-Star his desired homecoming.
The blockbuster trade has backfired on the Lakers, leaving them with a point guard who has become a liability on both ends of the floor. Los Angeles attempted to move Westbrook, but the team is now forced to roll with him for the rest of the season.
As much as James and the Lakers will voice optimism, things have reached a breaking point where the fact of the matter is the 33-year-old isn’t a good fit. His skill set combined with his playing style doesn’t mess next to James or Davis.
What makes matters more frustrating is that the four-time league MVP is still performing at an elite level. He’s averaging 29.1 points per contest with an active streak of 21 straight games with at least 25 points scored. On top of that, there’s no certainty James will maintain his stellar play through the rest of his Lakers’ tenure.
Los Angeles must live with their mistake that could very well put waste potentially James’ last great year.
Could the decision alter LeBron James’ future plans?
As much as the franchise wants to avoid the discussion, LeBron James’s future beyond his contract is attracting more attention.
James’ deal runs through the 2022-23 campaign, where he could test free agency ahead of what would be his 21st season. The Lakers’ ongoing struggles have fueled the notion that he could leave, especially if an opportunity to play with his son Bronny James presents itself elsewhere.
Much can change, but the Lakers’ current trajectory doesn’t put a promising future ahead. The front office must brace for an offseason filled with significant roster reconstruction.
The top priority must be moving Westbrook if he exercises his player option. The Lakers need a balanced roster that will complement James and Davis.
General manager Rob Pelinka placed himself in this situation, and he now must find a way to get out of it.