Russell Westbrook is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest point guards to have ever played the game. The 9-time All-Star has managed to win an MVP award, 2 scoring titles, and has averaged a triple-double 4 times out of the last 5 years. There has never been a point guard as explosive and individually dominant as Westbrook before, which is why he made the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
But as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers this season, he has not been at his best. Rather, he has looked as inconsistent and inefficient as ever. The superstar point guard is averaging 19.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, and 8.4 APG while turning the ball over 5 times per game and shooting 32.2% from three. Alongside superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Westbrook has not made a significant impact on the team. That is why the Lakers have an 8-6 record to start the season, a far cry from their expected start.
While Russell Westbrook is not at fault by himself, he has been a contributing factor and he will probably be the first to admit that. Averaging 5.4 turnovers per game and only shooting 42.7% from the field is not going to cut it for a squad that is missing the presence of LeBron James. The King is out with an abdominal strain and will likely need a few more weeks to recover before getting back to full strength. Even when he returns, Westbrook has never prospered alongside another ball-dominant star and that won’t change going forward.
Looking back at the offseason move that brought Westbrook to the Lakers, there is a ton of opinions surrounding that trade. Most fans and pundits believe the Lakers acquired the wrong player, and that LeBron James’ desire to play with Russ may end up hurting the team. There were better options available in the trade market for Los Angeles, but LeBron wanted to team up with Russell Westbrook over anyone else. Here are the 5 players that would be a much better fit for the Lakers than Russell Westbrook, even if these players do not have the resume that the triple-double machine has over his 14-year career.
5. Buddy Hield
2021-2022 Statistics: 16.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 39.4% 3-PT FG
It has been reported multiple times that LeBron James vouched for Russell Westbrook over sharpshooter Buddy Hield as the player he wanted to play with in Los Angeles. While Hield is a much better shooter, Westbrook is capable of carrying a team by himself as he has done in the past. The point guard affects the game in more areas than Hield and has the talent to lead an offense without the presence of The King.
But that does not mean he is a better fit than Hield. Rather, the sharpshooter would have had a greater impact playing alongside Anthony Davis, a big man who draws double-teams and can move the ball. Los Angeles have capable guards in Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Malik Monk who can all handle the ball for most of the game. That means the Lakers could have used Hield’s presence as a knockdown shooter to better fit the style of Anthony Davis and also LeBron James who is due to return in short order.
But despite Hield’s presence as an outside shooter, LeBron wanted Russ. He felt that Westbrook’s experience as an individual superstar could come in handy during “load management” periods, something that the Hield does not have. But when looking at the bigger picture, Westbrook’s inefficiencies can sometimes outweigh what he brings on the floor. With Buddy on the roster, the Lakers would have fewer turnovers and possibly a better record than they have now.
4. Ben Simmons
2021-2022 Statistics: DNP
Ben Simmons has yet to play an NBA game this season, and will likely never appear for the Philadelphia 76ers again. The drama he caused with the Philadelphia franchise has been ugly to say the least, and as the weeks go by, it is not getting better. Simmons would rather play anywhere than the Sixers, and that includes the Lakers as well. Quite frankly, Ben’s flashy style of play is perfectly suited to the bright lights of Staple Center.
Simmons cannot shoot the ball at all and is actually a worse shooter than Russell Westbrook is. But there is no denying he is a much better point guard who is controlled with his passing and makes others around him better. The Australian was the second-best player for the 76ers last year, leading them to the best record in the East and almost capturing the Defensive Player of the Year award. Simmons does a ton well on the floor like Westbrook, except he is a more controlled point guard that will manage the extreme turnover rate set by the Lakers this year.
The Australian is going through a period where his image has taken a huge hit, but there is no doubt the 25-year old has a higher ceiling than Westbrook does at this point. Simmons is longer, more controlled, and also younger than a 33-year old veteran who is stuck in his ways. Simmons will likely never be a knockdown shooter but it will be hard to find anyone who can feed Davis better than the 76ers star and that includes Russell Westbrook.
3. CJ McCollum
2021-2022 Statistics: 20.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 38.7% 3-PT FG
Outside of Damian Lillard, the biggest threat in Portland is 2016 Most Improved Player CJ McCollum. The shooting guard is averaging over 20 PPG for the 7th straight season and has another couple of years as an elite scorer. In terms of isolation scoring and carrying an offense, there is no doubt that CJ is one of the best players who might be available in the trade market.
McCollum can shoot the three better than Russ and is a better all-around scorer. The shooting guard can create his own shot from anywhere on the court and also has playoff experience from the Western Conference Finals run a few years ago. McCollum is also a capable ball-handler that can carry the ball up the floor and also set up his teammates when needed. The biggest factor here is McCollum’s shooting. At 33 years old, Westbrook will likely never have a better jumper than CJ and that is something we can put our money on.
Replacing Westbrook with McCollum would certainly give the Lakers a better record than they have right now. The Trail Blazers star does not suffer from the turnover weaknesses that Russ has nor the shooting inconsistencies. McCollum has yet to shoot under 37% from three in any season of his career and is getting more refined as the years go by. CJ does not have the spectacular statistics that Westbrook has nor the Hall of Fame resume, but at this point, the Lakers could have used his skills more. McCollum has been a monitored player over the past few years because Portland are not going anywhere with two scoring guards in the starting lineup. CJ’s scoring would be much more appreciated with the Lakers alongside James and Davis.
2. DeMar DeRozan
2021-2022 Statistics: 26.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 36.7% 3-PT FG
DeMar DeRozan is playing like an MVP candidate this season and has brought success back to the Chicago Bulls. Chicago is one of the best teams in the East this year, holding a 9-4 record and having one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. DeRozan and LaVine have been a match made in heaven because both players can create their own offense and have the size to be impactful if their outside shots are not falling.
But looking back at DeRozan’s track record, he might have been a better fit than Westbrook from the start. There were rumors that Los Angeles were trying to go after DeRozan last year, but the Spurs were not interested in negotiating. This year, DeRozan is playing arguably the best ball of his career as he looks to prove himself as a bonafide All-Star. For Los Angeles, they might be kicking themselves for not closing a deal last year.
DeRozan is putting up 26.1 PPG on 36.7% shooting from deep, both career-highs. The swingman has improved his all-around game thanks to his time in San Antonio but his efficiency as a scorer has been off the charts. The scoring powerhouse will likely be making his 5th All-Star Team this year, and his efficient scoring could make the Lakers an unbeatable team once LeBron James returns.
1. Bradley Beal
2021-2022 Statistics: 23.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 25.0% 3-PT FG
No player can impact the Lakers better than 3-time All-Star Bradley Beal. The Wizards superstar has had an inconsistent season so far, but that is because the team added some nice scoring options including Spencer Dinwiddie and Montrezl Harrel in the offseason. For once in a very long time, Beal does not have to do everything on offense for the Wizards. But looking at what Beal has done over the past few years, he is a perfect scoring option for the Lakers.
The shooting guard has averaged over 30 PPG over the past two seasons, and will likely get closer to that number as the games go by. For Lakers fans, their dream acquisition is Russell Westbrook’s former teammate. Beal can shoot better than Westbrook and also score at a much more efficient clip, not to mention he is only 28 years old. The Wizards are playing extremely well in the East thanks to their improved roster, but Beal has been at the heart of the team for years.
For the Lakers, they will likely never get Westbrook to play efficiently and have to put up with his turnovers and missed three-point shots. That does not mean that Russ is a bad player by any means, but only that his fit with LeBron and Davis is not the best. Anyone who follows basketball knows that a player of Beal’s skill set is better suited for the Lakers because he can handle the ball and shoot the lights out. Based on how Washington is playing, Los Angeles will likely never have a chance at acquiring Beal but Lakers fans will continue to hope.
Stats counted before November 15