Nothing is official yet, the but the reported trade of Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers is bound to shake up the Western Conference and the rest of the NBA. Well, it already has. The news has created a stir with Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope being booted out of Los Angeles to make room for the homegrown Westbrook.
The basketball world is split on the trade. The Lakers were able to finally get the third member of their team’s Big Three (sorry Kuzma and Andre Drummond, not counting you), but is Westbrook the right piece to help reach a championship post bubble?
First off, Westbrook is a Los Angeles native, attending Leuzinger High School and UCLA before being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder. He and his brand have always been active in the community, most recently announcing the launch of the Why Not? Academy, which will provide education opportunities for underserved youths.
Westbrook’s new teammate, LeBron James, also helped start a school called the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, an amazing achievement these two can share together off the court.
Playing for your hometown is always special and something that has seemed to have been in Westbrook’s future for some time now. He is a family man, with a wife and kids who I am sure wants to be closely tied to where he was brought up. Westbrook’s hometown happens to be one of the biggest sports cities in the country with one of the greatest athlete’s in his sports’ history on the roster.
The timing could not be more perfect for Westbrook to not only come home, but win a ring while he is there. Now, the biggest question is, how will Westbrook fit with the team on the court? Doesn’t Westbrook play a similar game to James? Can they coexist?
The Lakers have been seeking another playmaker not named LeBron James for quite some time now. It was previously Rajon Rondo during their championship run in 2020, and he was sorely missed the following season. While Dennis Schroder was supposed to be that piece, he did not have the best year and most likely will not continue with the team heading into next season.
Westbrook will easily fill that slot, as well as help James carry the team load on offense. From a talent and basketball IQ standpoint, this is a major trade for the Lakers. The pieces they are losing in Kuzma, the grumpy Harrell and Caldwell-Pope had streaky seasons at best, and can now help the Washington Wizards have a better season.
There are questions surrounding whether or not Westbrook will fit well enough next to James and Anthony Davis. The only physical evidence of possible on-court chemistry is previous Olympics and NBA All-Star games where James and Westbrook showed off their fast break ability. We know how much these three are willing to do to win a championship, but the deciding factor may be what they’re willing to give up.
Will Davis give up his body to play more center minutes for faster lineups and more spacing? Will Westbrook give up the ball more now that he is playing with the King?
Other than the sacrifice and potential of the big three, the necessity for role players and shooters has never been higher for a LeBron James’ big three. All of them are not always reliable from deep, and will need shooters to surround them in order to have more reliable spacing.
The call was heard by management as the Lakers signed numerous role players after landing Westbrook. Names like Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington and most recently Carmelo Anthony will be donning the purple and gold next to Tinsel Town’s new big three in hopes of capturing another championship under LeBron’s tenure.
Dwight Howard will also be returning to the Lakers next season, a player who was missed defensively when facing top big men in the league. The average age for the Lakers has definitely increased, but so has overall talent and championship potential. The biggest question for them will be can they stay healthy?
This team had a tough time with health last season, and the potential of injury has only increased with older players being added to the roster. While the increase in age is obvious, there are still athletic players on this roster like Howard, Malik Monk, and of course Westbrook and James.
The NBA landscape has changed from head to toe in less than a week with the NBA Draft and numerous signings and trades all over the league. The Eastern Conference has especially bulked up, with teams like the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls making big moves for hopefully better seasons.
While the Lakers have improved, so has the competition and they need to be prepared to play at their peak for a chance at becoming the most winning franchise in NBA history.
Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Lakers fans hope to see Russell Westbrook elevate the team to another NBA title when he suits up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Photo credit: Mark Hammond/News4usonline