The Los Angeles Lakers spent the offseason revamping the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The front office’s efforts were headlined by trading for All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. General manager Rob Pelinka recently revealed why the Lakers chose to acquire Westbrook.
Lakers trade for Russell Westbrook
Following a disappointing first-round playoff exit, the Lakers ventured into a busy summer centered on reconfiguring the roster.
Los Angeles began with acquiring Westbrook that involved moving key contributors Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell. It marked him playing for the fourth team in as many years as he spent just one season with the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets after he departed from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook’s arrival changed the dynamic in Los Angeles hoping to win an 18th NBA title. Beyond that, general manager Rob Pelinka has now finally brought clarity regarding why the Lakers landed the star guard.
Rob Pelinka gave a surprisingly reasonable explanation for why the Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook
The Lakers’ busy offseason was headlined by the blockbuster trade to acquire former league MVP Russell Westbrook.
Reports initially surfaced that Los Angeles wanted to add a premier guard to help with the ball-handling duties and contribute as a significant offensive factor. During a recent episode of Spectrum Sportsnet’s Backstage: Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka voiced that the team wanted a dynamic backcourt talent to help elevate the pressure off LeBron James.
“I think in kind of building the roster in the offseason, obviously, we made a big trade for Russell Westbrook to get another playmaker,” Pelinka said. “We knew that as LeBron [James] journeyed towards Year 19 in the league and then Year 20, we couldn’t rely on him as the sole engine for our team. So we made that trade, really wanted to dimensionalize the roster with a combination of versatility, guys that can shoot, and defenders.”
Pelinka’s comments showcase that he believes the 33-year-old is a potential long-term piece of the puzzle as he hinted at James’ final two years of his contract that runs through the 2022-23 campaign. Meanwhile, Westbrook holds a roughly $47 million player option for next season, which would be surprising to see him turn down.
He fits the bill, as he’s a proven offensive factor who can change the game through scoring and passing. His blend playing alongside James is taking some time to figure out, but he’s becoming a more consistent and reliable part of the puzzle.
Pelinka’s remarks don’t provide much insight, but it clears the air as to why the Lakers executed the trade.
Lakers need Russell Westbrook to step it up
The Lakers knew the first couple of months of the regular season would feature a bumpy path.
The struggles have become more prominent due to nagging injuries, preventing the roster from truly gelling. James’ extended absence forced Westbrook and others into roles they wouldn’t be playing if the four-time league MVP was on the floor.
With Anthony Davis expected to miss the next month, it’s put the star guard into the spot of playing an increased offensive role. Westbrook is fully capable of handling the workload, but it’s a responsibility that he won’t have once Davis returns.
Meanwhile, the Lakers are struggling to find consistency due to various lineup combinations impacted by COVID-19 and injuries. Much of the regular season still lies ahead, but the pathway remains challenging due to those factors.
Westbrook must provide stable play to steady the boat, and more importantly, not to allow James not to overexert himself. Los Angeles is already heavily relying on the 17-time All-Star in his 19th year, making Westbrook’s play much more critical.