On July 29,2021, the Los Angeles Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a No.22 pick (Isaiah Jackson) to the Washington Wizards for Russell Westbrook, a 2024 second-round pick and a 2028 second-round pick. Russell Westbrook is a LA native who played for UCLA during his college career and later went on to be picked 4th in the 2008 NBA draft by the Seattle Supersonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder). Westbrook was an MVP in 2017 when he was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he broke Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple double in a single season. Since than, Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets and then to the Wizards. Westbrook is a nine-time all star and made the All-NBA First Team twice. Without a doubt, Westbrook is one of the best point guards in the league today. But why was he traded when he is a superstar talent?
Westbrook’s Record and History
Even though Westbrook is the most determined player on the court, his determination doesn’t always translate into a victory. Ever since Westbrook’s co-star, Kevin Durant, left the Thunder in 2016, Westbrook has put up ridiculous, videogame-like numbers. For three seasons in a row, Westbrook has averaged a triple-double during his last three years with the Thunder. However, the Thunder has struggled to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. He was then traded to the Houston Rockets to play along side his old teammate, James Harden. Still with 2 MVPs on the same team, the Rockets lost to the Lakers in the second round, in five games, of the 2020 playoffs. To be fair, it was against the Lakers who did go on to win the championship that year. Then Westbrook was traded to the Wizards who struggled to secure a playoff spot. Westbrook has a bad track record playing with great players, but coming up short in the post season. One major criticism of Westbrook’s game is that he stat pads, or chases the triple-double. Having to chase stats during a game could rub some teammates the wrong way. This could lead to a dysfunctional team chemistry.
Personally, I disagree with people accusing Westbrook of stat padding. If you look at the teams Westbrook played with since his triple-double record, Westbrook has never been the primary scorer or first option. The only time he had to score was his historic season in 2016, when his second option was an undeveloped Victor Oladipo. Westbrook averaged 31.6 points that season. After that, the Thunder acquired Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, who were considered better shooters than Westbrook. Westbrook only averaged 25.4 and 22.9 points the following seasons. His turnovers also went down those seasons with Paul George and his field goal attempts per game went down significantly. So clearly, Westbrook isn’t just going for stats, but rather what is required of him. He still has to grab boards and pass the ball as a point guard, so of course with his intensity, his assists and rebound stats would stay the same. Those numbers only changed when he was traded to Houston, to play with Harden, who is also known for getting a lot of stats. Westbrook only averaged 7.9 rebounds and 7 assists with Harden. His numbers went down playing with a player who plays the same position as him. The only difference is that Westbrook’s points per game went up from 22.9 points per game to 27.2 per game. He scored more. Then when he was traded to the Wizards, he points went down to 22.2 points because there’s a better scorer on the team. And his name his Bradley Beal. Note, Westbrook’s assists and rebounds went back up to 11.7 and 11.5, respectively.
Westbrook isn’t someone who chases his numbers at any cost, rather he is willing to do anything his team needs him to do, at any cost. He is willing to take up different roles that his teams needs. Most people would say that Westbrook needs to try less or trust his teammates more or to stop getting his stats. One, telling a player to TRY LESS … stop, just stop. Second, how can Westbrook “trust” his teammates if he only played with them for only a season or two at most. Lastly, him getting those stats are a result of what his team needs him to do. Clearly he delivers.
Westbrook in LA
Without a doubt, Westbrook is a great addition to the Lakers, but the Lakers gave up a lot of offensive power. Kuzma and Harrell gives a lot of points off the bench, while KCP provides great defense and spot up shooting for the Lakers starting lineup. Westbrook will be the much needed point guard the Lakers need, since Dennis Schröder couldn’t do it, but the Lakers are in much need of off the bench scoring. Also, Westbrook doesn’t have a great record of three point shooting, which complicates things since Lebron’s role with the arrival of Westbrook is unclear. If Lebron will be the primary ball handler, Westbrook isn’t the greatest option for spot up shooting. This may work if Westbrook alternates with Lebron. This means that if Lebron is on the court, Westbrook sits, if Westbrook is on, Lebron sits. This is a similar setup the Rockets employed with Harden and Westbrook. If Westbrook will be the Laker’s primary point guard, I’m not sure what will become of Lebron.
Hopefully by the time the 2021-2022 season starts, Anthony Davis will be healthy and the Lakers has acquired more players to support the three superstars. Until than, we have to sit and wait on what the Lakers will continue to do this off season.
We appreciate y’all for letting us be a part of your Break Time.
Signing off, JT