The Lakers made a blockbuster move on Draft Night which brings Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles while Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are heading to Washington. A deal of this caliber stole a lot of the news on draft night, especially when there are a host of extremely talented players that will be the future of the NBA. But Westbrook joining the Lakers raises a ton of questions on the team’s ability to contend, and what the 2017 MVP can bring to the 2020 NBA champions.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are widely regarded as the best duo in the NBA when healthy, and they proved that 2 years ago in the “Bubble”. This year, James and Davis missed a ton of games (combined 63 games) and were not available to make the Lakers viable threats in the Western Conference. The result was a first-round exit at the hands of the Western Conference finalist Phoenix Suns, in quite embarrassing fashion. Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the 4th time in his career, but he held a 34-38 record with the Wizards and barely made the playoffs before getting bounced in the first round as well.
Westbrook has not played in an NBA Finals since he was Kevin Durant’s teammate in 2012 and his time will not last forever as he approaches 33 years of age. It all depends if Westbrook can complete a Big Three with a Superteam that will take over the league. It is time to analyze if this blockbuster deal creates the best superteam in the NBA.
Russell Westbrook Is A Triple-Double Machine, And So Is LeBron James
Russell Westbrook receives arguably the most criticism from fans and pundits despite being one of the most gifted players of all time. Westbrook was sensational this season averaging 22.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG, and 11.7 APG for the Wizards, in a season with very few bright spots. Other than Bradley Beal who averaged 31.3 PPG, Washington had no other player perform on a consistent level especially with starting center Thomas Bryant only playing 10 games. Despite the adversity Washington faced, Westbrook overcame a slow start to the season to help the Wizards make the playoffs.
At his position, Westbrook will always be a triple-double threat. He acts as a center for the teams he plays for by grabbing rebounds and always hovering around the basket, while his vertical makes him a great option to contest shots around the rim. Having a triple-double threat means that Westbrook can influence the game when his shot isn’t falling or his teammates aren’t hitting shots. The Lakers have the privilege of having LeBron James, another triple-double threat.
Westbrook and LeBron are able to create for others, dominate the boards, physically impose themselves on matchups, and score at the rim. Both players clearly Hall of Famers, their triple-double ability means teams will always have to deal with versatile superstars doing damage in multiple areas. The main advantage for the Lakers is LeBron’s basketball IQ because he will not have to shoulder the playmaking or scoring role for much of the season while Westbrook can channel his inner-MVP to do that. Having Anthony Davis certainly doesn’t hurt either.
The Lakers Have A Physical Advantage In 3 Positions Every Game
Even if the modern NBA game is shifting towards guard play and versatile forwards who can space the floor, basketball will always be a big man’s game. Posting up is not the way to do it anymore, but having size certainly is. The Lakers, with Westbrook on board, have 3 positional advantages every single night. Westbrook is 6’3” and a bundle of muscle at the point guard position and has a physical advantage over any point guard in the league through speed, strength, or vertical. Even if Westbrook is an inconsistent shooter, he can get to the rim whenever he wants to score or kick it out to teammates.
LeBron James is similar to Westbrook although at a larger size. James in his prime might be the most gifted athlete in sports because he is a battering ram when he attacks the rim with speed and vertical to go with it. At 36 years old, James is nowhere near the same athlete he used to be, but he still has a physical advantage over his opponents barring the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo. James can back down any defender, has the size to see the court perfectly, and can still explode to the rim at times. Dealing with these superstars on a physical level can prove to be too much.
Finally, Anthony Davis is one of the most unstoppable big men of his era. He is 6’10” and 253 lbs with guard-like skills, meaning he is normally quicker and more skilled than defenders at his position. Davis has great length and vertical, meaning he can dominate smaller players through size and be slippery against stronger players. There are many factors in determining a team’s ability to contend, but raw size is always a massive plus especially when paired with skill. The Lakers’ size was their main strength in the “Bubble” in 2020, and it will be again in 2022.
LeBron, Davis, And Westbrook Are A Superteam But The Team Needs Shooters
In conclusion, Russell Westbrook gives LeBron James yet another superteam. Westbrook might not be as good of a fit as Damian Lillard, but he is a better playmaker and can score 20 points a night. His physicality alongside James and Davis gives them an advantage over any team in the league, including the superteam Brooklyn Nets. But the Lakers need one thing to be the favorites for the NBA title: shooting.
Russell Westbrook is a notoriously inconsistent shooter, averaging 43.9% from the field, 31.5% from three, and 65.6% from the free-throw line this season. LeBron has improved his shooting over the years, but he is certainly not a knockdown shooter off the dribble. He can make do, and so can Anthony Davis, but the Lakers need to replenish what they lost. Caldwell-Pope was their best shooter, 41.0% from three, and losing him means there isn’t a specialist shooter on the roster right now. Kyle Kuzma receives a ton of hate, but he can heat up from the perimeter and is a better 3-point marksman than Westbrook (36.1%).
In order for the Lakers to use their size and physicality to their advantage, they must grab a shooter or two to counteract what the Brooklyn Nets can bring with their three offensive superstars. For now, in terms of pure talent and physicality, the Lakers have a superteam although they are a few shooters away from being the favorites to win it all once again.