Russell Westbrook hits the jackpot landing with Lakers, but can he take advantage of the opportunity?

Speaking your self into the concept of Russell Westbrook as a core contributor on a championship contender is a tough train nowadays. One may even name it futile. The Rockets thought they might win all of it with him, solely to lose within the second spherical earlier than dropping James Harden and finally blowing their workforce aside. The Wizards thought they might make a leap placing Westbrook subsequent to Bradley Beal, solely to complete 4 video games below .500 having to crawl by the basement of the Jap Convention play-in match. 

There simply would not appear to be numerous thriller as to what Westbrook brings to the desk in 2021. He’ll refill the stat sheet, however there may be little to no proof that he impacts successful on any form of significant degree. Truth is, he may influence dropping. Contemplating he is set to make $44.2 million this coming season with a $47 million participant choice for 2022-23, you possibly can’ve made the argument he had one of many extra un-tradable contracts within the league. 

And but, not solely did Westbrook get traded once more on Thursday … he acquired traded to an absolute jackpot state of affairs with the Los Angeles Lakers, who instantly provide him his finest alternative at a championship for the reason that long-lost Oklahoma Metropolis glory days. One has to wonder if it was Westbrook’s title or recreation that afforded him this chance, however both means it landed in his lap. Now he simply has to make the most of it. 

Make no mistake: Westbrook can nonetheless play, which ought to go with out saying for a man who averaged a triple-double in 4 of the final 5 seasons. However there’s context to his successes. It was not a coincidence, as an example, when Westbrook performed maybe the most effective basketball of his profession after the Rockets traded Clint Capela to Atlanta from early February of 2019 to the COVID shutdown in mid-March. 

That transfer was made for the only real function of opening up driving lanes for Westbrook, and he took benefit, considerably trimming his 3-point quantity and resisting the urge to accept his patented pull-ups. Westbrook regarded good when Houston performed five-out and likewise subsequent to the super-floor-stretching Davis Bertans in Washington. He will be at his finest with shooters round him and with no conventional heart clogging the paint. 

Drawback is, the Lakers is perhaps the worst 3-point taking pictures workforce within the league as presently constructed. Within the deal for Westbrook, they despatched out Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, their two main 3-point converters from final season and the one two midway threatening gunners normally. On high of that, we all know Anthony Davis prefers to to play the 4 spot with a conventional heart subsequent to him. Put Westbrook on the ground with a paint-patrolling massive man and no shooters to talk of, and the Lakers’ flooring spacing figures to resemble a cellphone sales space. 

In principle, that is both going to power Westbrook into numerous pull-up jumpers (no bueno for actually the worst 3-point shooter in NBA historical past with not less than 2,500 makes an attempt), or numerous head-down drives by a congested lane, which does not precisely scream effectivity. So the place does Westbrook match? My reply to that in the meanwhile is I do not completely know. What I do know is Westbrook must determine it out, as a result of alternatives like this do not come alongside fairly often. This isn’t simply his finest likelihood at a title; it may also be his final. 

The glass-half-full outlook has Westbrook taking a great chunk of playmaking duties off LeBron’s plate. He is nonetheless nearly not possible to maintain out of the lane, and he’ll certainly create a ton of inside assists to Davis and different bigs by sucking shot blockers into his still-ferocious rim assaults. In closing lineups, it ought to assist Westbrook when Davis strikes to heart and performs extra on the perimeter in pick-and-roll motion with LeBron, who also can, hopefully, play fewer minutes in his nineteenth season with out the workforce falling aside. 

Final yr, the Lakers have been outscored by 12.8 factors per 100 possessions with out LeBron on the ground, per Cleansing the Glass. Dennis Schroder was presupposed to be the repair for that drawback, however he did not go as deliberate. Westbrook is the brand new answer. You possibly can visualize Westbrook taking part in with Davis (a pick-and-roll companion in contrast to any Russ has ever performed with) and get excited concerning the potentialities in non-LeBron minutes. 

The Lakers aren’t executed filling out the roster, both. They’ve the taxpayer mid-level exception, they usually might nonetheless make a transfer for Buddy Hield, maybe as an expanded model of this commerce to incorporate a 3rd workforce (Sacramento). If that occurs, be careful. Hield’s taking pictures on this roster can be doubly harmful. 

The Lakers owe it to themselves to attempt to put Westbrook in nearly as good a state of affairs as potential, each by the rest of their roster strikes and their rotations, however finally they’ve already supplied this fading star with a golden alternative to rediscover the sunshine. He cannot attempt to do an excessive amount of with that chance. He cannot accept jumpers. He has to commit defensively. He has to know he is not the top of the snake, which one can solely presume he does. This is not about gaudy stats anymore. That is a few championship. Let’s hope the stakes convey out the most effective in Westbrook, who has the prospect to rewrite his polarizing story within the ultimate few chapters. | Russell Westbrook hits the jackpot touchdown with Lakers, however can he make the most of the chance?


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