Everyone said it couldn’t be done. Los Angeles Lakers fans were supposedly back at it again with their delusions that they could actually add a marquee star like Damian Lillard or Chris Paul on their roster.
The photoshopped jersey swaps were widespread and had Lakers fans lusting over the possibilities. The slander subsequently poured in from the Purple & Gold detractors who mocked them for something that seemed impossible. But then the bombshell report from Shams Charania came through – the Lakers landed Russell Westbrook.
The Washington Wizards have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook, 2024 second-round pick, 2028 second-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and No. 22 tonight, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 30, 2021
As a Washington Wizards supporter, my initial reaction to the trade was honestly relief. I’ve had a close fan’s perspective at what a full season with Russell Westbrook looks like. And while he’s tremendous fun to root for and goes all-out for every game, you get a clear view of his limitations as a player. Those limitations will become exacerbated on the Lakers.
Here are two reasons why the Russell Westbrook trade is bound to flop on LeBron James and the Lakers.
2 reasons Russell Westbrook trade will flop on Lakers:
The most obvious reason is easily shooting, or lack thereof. Injuries aside, shooting was the Lakers’ biggest weakness last season. They were a brutal 25th in the NBA in three-pointers made with just 11.1 triples per contest. That mark puts them behind sweet-shooting teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and the Memphis Grizzlies, whose leading scorer in Ja Morant barely made 30% from beyond the arc.
There was only one playoff team that was consistently worse than the Lakers in three-point percentage (21st) , three-pointers made (25th), and attempted (24th). Can you guess who that was? Why it’s none other than my beloved Washington Wizards, of course.
Now there are obviously a few other reasons for that. Bradley Beal fell from being an elite volume shooter to simply league average at 35% from deep, to name one. But the most undeniable factor was that Russell Westbrook was one of the worst volume three-point shooters in the NBA.
Brodie shot 4.2 three-point attempts and made just 1.3 per game, good for 31% from beyond the arc. That’s not going to do any favors for a Lakers team that’s already one of the worst in the NBA from distance.
Add to that the fact that they got rid of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who was their best shooter by far last season and it’s going to be a recipe for disaster. Yes, they added shooters in the offseason such as Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza. But Russell Westbrook will still be on the floor for the majority of the game, while playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, two other players who thrive better inside the arc.
One of the biggest benefits Russell Westbrook brings to the Lakers is regular season help. LeBron James and Anthony Davis were both physically worn down by the grind of the 72-game slate, especially coming off their bubble championship run. That led to both of their stars being hampered by injuries by the time the postseason rolled around.
Russell Westbrook is an instant elixir to cure that. The brodie was absolutely amazing in the second half of the season, posting MVP-type numbers and carrying our squad to a magical run that eventually got us into the playoffs. We closed the season winning 13 of our last 18 games, including a win over the Lakers mind you, on the back of Westbrook’s heroics. It was a good time to be a Wizards fan, even just for a fleeting moment.
But when the playoffs came around, Russell Westbrook quickly went from hero to zero. Yes, he still averages a triple-double. But the glaring lapses and backbreaking mistakes came just as often. Westbrook tallied just 19 points on a miserable 33.3% shooting clip from the field in five playoff games against the Sixers. His bad three-point shooting got even worse as he fell to a brutal 25% from beyond the arc.
This isn’t a one-off occurrence, either. Russell Westbrook has notoriously been a playoff underperformer throughout his entire NBA career. In 11 postseason runs, Westbrook shoots just a shade over 40% from the floor and sub-30% from the three-point line. In the five seasons since he’s played without Kevin Durant on his side, he’s shot below 40% on four out of the five occasions and only made it out of the first round once.
In all fairness, Russell Westbrook is entering an entirely new situation with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s never played with two other stars of this magnitude at the same time in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Perhaps taking the ball away from his hands and into LeBron’s will allow him to thrive like never before.
But based on what he’s shown so far throughout his NBA career, it’s tough to see that happening. One thing’s for sure – the Lakers will be a highly entertaining watch, for better or worse.