The Los Angeles Lakers began the offseason with the big-splash move to acquire star point guard Russell Westbrook. The Lakers’ newly formed Big 3 has already received a strong wave of criticism directed toward Westbrook‘s fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The former league MVP has quickly channeled that negative chatter to improve his biggest weakness.
Russell Westbrook joins the Lakers
The Lakers venture full steam ahead with revamping their roster by acquiring Westbrook to pair alongside James and Davis.
Los Angeles’ offseason plans centered on finding a playmaking point guard, which the 32-year-old more than fits the bill. He’s coming off another highly productive campaign, averaging 22.2 points along with career highs with 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds. It marked the fourth time in the last five seasons he’s averaged a triple-double.
Westbrook is in the fourth year of his five-year, $206.7 million deal that includes a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. The nine-time All-Star remains one of the NBA’s top point guards behind his scoring prowess and playmaking as a passer.
Westbrook’s arrival allowed the Lakers to construct a veteran-laden roster around their newly formed Big 3. All that didn’t take long for the star point guard to quickly work on improving one critical part of his game ahead of his first campaign in Los Angeles.
Russell Westbrook is already endearing himself to Lakers fans by working to fix his biggest weakness
Since Westbrook joined the Lakers, the biggest concern remains with his fit playing alongside LeBron James, another ball-dominant player.
Much of the doubt stems from the former league MVP’s shooting struggles, especially from beyond the arc, as he holds a career 30.5% mark. It includes him falling below 30% seven times while hitting under that in three straight years before last season.
As much as Westbrook publicly shuns hearing the criticism, it’s led him to take increased steps to improve that area of his game. He recently posted a video working on his outside shooting, hitting 11 straight shots from distance.
Although it’s only an individual drill on a practice court, Westbrook is showing the commitment to improving his 3-point shooting as it’s been one of his Achilles heels throughout his NBA career. The Lakers need him to become a more efficient shooter from deep as he will have plenty more opportunities to score from distance due to playing with James and Anthony Davis.
Westbrook has shown he can be a capable 3-point shooter as he hit a career-best 34.3% on a career-high 7.2 attempts per contest in his 2016-17 MVP campaign. It will take much more than practicing his 3-point shot, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign.
Los Angeles aiming for NBA title contention
Westbrook working on his outside shooting further underlines the unique opportunity that lies ahead.
Los Angeles’ roster construction has received a fair amount of criticism due to Westbrook’s playing style and the collective age of the team. However, many have circled the Lakers as one of the NBA title favorites.
Westbrook will play a significant part in the puzzle, but it will primarily depend on James and Davis’ health. The two stars struggled to work past injuries last season, leading to a first-round playoff exit. Meanwhile, the Lakers hope the supporting cast filled with shooting and versatile defenders can provide balance behind their star power.
As Westbrook pointed out in his introductory press conference, there will be a transition period for the restructured roster, but the end goal remains the same.
“Each year I try to find ways to be able to uplift and make my teammates better around me,” Westbrook said. “AD and Bron are friends of mine first, and me coming in my job is to uplift them and they will do the same with me vice-versa. As the season progresses we will figure it out. There will be ups and there will be downs. That’s normal and that’s okay, but we will figure the best way we want to play to be able to win a championship.”