Running out of time
Russell Westbrook’s leash in Los Angeles is already tightening as Lakers guards continue to impress and the odds of him leaving the team increase.
the butt of many jokes around the league
L.A.’s trade for the 2016-17 NBA MVP did not pan out as hoped as the team finished just 33-49 in their only season so far with the “Brodie.” He was also the butt of many jokes around the league for his carelessness with the basketball, terrible shooting percentages, and the stigma that he is a selfish player.
Westbrook joined up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in hopes of winning his first championship, something the incumbent pair accomplished in the 2020 COVID “bubble” season, but he looks more and more as if he is not in the Lakers’ plans moving forward.
New and improved
The 2021-22 Lakers roster fell short in several key areas, including playmaking, shooting, and depth. General manager Rob Pelinka devoted most of the offseason to bolstering several positions, including both guard spots, to remedy these issues.
all four players are making a case for being in the regular rotation
Lonnie Walker IV, Patrick Beverley, and Dennis Schröder jump out as the most notable of the new acquisitions, although the return of the injured Kendrick Nunn, who has not played since spring 2021, is an addition in and of itself. Unfortunately for Westbrook, all four players are making a case for being in the regular rotation.
Nunn has been the most impressive thus far, posting a line of 17.0 points and 3.3 assists on 52.9% three-point shooting in three preseason games. Walker IV has also chipped in with 12.0 points and impressive perimeter defense, while Beverley’s infectious attitude is reflected in the way the team plays without the ball.
Schröder was dealing with visa issues that have since been resolved and will make his first preseason appearance soon. When he last played for Los Angeles in 2020-21, he averaged 15.4 points and 5.8 assists.
Rookie head coach Darvin Ham said that one of the most enticing parts of the Lakers’ job offer was the opportunity to work with Westbrook, but he also conceded that he will have to earn his starting spot and minutes. With the way that the team has looked with him off the floor, Ham’s faith in Westbrook may be put to the test sooner than later.
Odds Westbrook leaves the Lakers?
Recent reports revealed that the Lakers had strongly considered sending Westbrook and two first-round picks to the Indiana Pacers for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, both of whom fit L.A.’s roster and system perfectly.
Meanwhile, Bovada has provided odds on where Westbrook will end up this season: the Lakers are still the favorites at (-200), with the Jazz (+250), Knicks (+650), and Pacers (+650) close behind.
However, since the odds were released, the Jazz have had a firesale, reducing their likelihood of entering the Westbrook sweepstakes.
If the Lakers do decide to move on from their starting PG, it would allow LeBron to spend more time on the ball as a primary decision-maker, which was the role he played during the run to the championship in the bubble. Taking Westbrook off the floor also creates an open slot for a shooter, which would increase the space on the floor.
face a long road to get back to the glory they knew just a couple of years ago
It would be nearly impossible for L.A. to replicate the disaster that was last season, but they face a long road to get back to the glory they knew just a couple of years ago. In-town rival Los Angeles Clippers are loaded and healthy, the Golden State Warriors are coming off of an NBA Finals triumph, and the up-and-coming Dallas Mavericks are continuing to surge under the leadership of Luka Doncic.
The decision to keep or move Westbrook could define the Lakers’ upcoming season. As of the time of writing, they are +2500 (11th-best) to win the 2022-23 title.
Meanwhile, odds for landing spots for the projected number one pick in next year’s draft, Victor Wembanyama, are also out.