The Los Angeles Lakers thought they were creating one of the best Big Threes in NBA history when they acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, pairing the one-time MVP with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, Westbrook has been awful with the purple and gold on both sides of the floor, and many Lakers fans want the future Hall of Famer traded.
However, it’s doubtful any team will trade for Westbrook since he’s making $44.2 million this season and has a player option worth $47.1 million for next season. The Lakers are probably stuck with the UCLA product, who reportedly doesn’t take criticism well.
Russell Westbrook reportedly gets defensive in film sessions
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Westbrook often gets defensive when Lakers coaches single him out in film sessions. He hasn’t been good on offense or defense this year, and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel benched him for the end of the team’s 111-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers, a move the coaching staff considered for a while.
“For weeks, the staff had considered benching Westbrook at a moment like this,” Shelburne wrote. “Team sources said there was always concern as to how he’d react to such a move. Would he get defensive, as he often had when he felt like he was being singled out in film sessions? Would it erode the confidence that is so important to his game? When Vogel finally did it, it was as understandable as it was stunning.”
If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would be in the play-in tournament. Despite LeBron putting up superstar numbers at the age of 37, it doesn’t appear Los Angeles will turn things around unless Westbrook magically plays better.
While the odds of that happening don’t look high since the All-Star guard has looked so putrid this season, not every member of the Lakers is giving up on Russ.
Some Lakers members are being patient with Russell Westbrook
According to Shelburne, some members of the Lakers are hopeful Westbrook’s play will improve since he started off poorly with the Houston Rockets and Wizards before flipping the switch. They have no other choice but to be optimistic since Westbrook is untradeable.
“Others inside the organization are more patient, leaning on Westbrook’s long history of improving his play throughout the season as he adjusts to new surroundings and pointing to the mere 15 games that James, Davis and Westbrook have spent on the court together because of injuries,” Shelburne wrote. “It’s not like [Westbrook’s] a tradable player where if it’s not working out you just move on; everybody in the NBA knows that, one team source said. So it’s got to work. This is the only option. There is no Plan B for this season.”
Westbrook is averaging 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.8 assists for the Lakers while shooting 43.7% from the field, 29.6% from beyond the arc, and 67.3% from the free-throw line. He leads the NBA in turnovers and has a plus-minus of -70. No matter how special LeBron is, the Lakers won’t be successful if their starting point guard can’t shoot and turns the ball over at the drop of a hat.
After the first month of the season, it was evident that the Lakers made a mistake trading for Westbrook. Rob Pelinka should have traded for Sacramento Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield instead. The Lakers would be higher than the No. 8 seed if they had Hield over Westbrook.
Lakers messed up not getting Buddy Hield
Hield is one of the best shooters in the NBA. He would have been a perfect fit alongside LeBron and Davis. The Kings guard is shooting 38.1% from beyond the arc this season and would have flourished with the Lakers since LeBron and Davis command double-teams almost every time they have the ball in the post, which would have freed up Hield for open shots.
Mike Miller and Ray Allen won titles with LeBron. The sharpshooters benefited from playing with the King since he’s one of the top passers of all time and always collapses the paint on his drives to the hoop. Teams leave Westbrook open from beyond the arc, urging him to shoot and creating floor balance for the Lakers. If Hield was next to LeBron and Davis, Los Angeles would undoubtedly have a better offensive rating. They currently rank 24th in the league.
Only time will tell if Westbrook plays better for the Lakers. However, if you expect him to turn into a shooter overnight and stop turning the ball over, don’t get your hopes up.