The Los Angeles Lakers have not had the start that many expected of them. The team is currently 10-10 with a quarter of the season out the way, and have not been convincing, to say the least. LeBron James has not been healthy, and neither has Anthony Davis which isn’t a surprise. Most importantly, Russell Westbrook has not been a great signing.
Westbrook is averaging 19.9 PPG and 8.7 APG this season, which seems like very strong numbers. But he is also averaging 4.9 turnovers per game and shooting less than 31% from the three-point line. With the way his inefficiencies have been highlighted, it’s obvious Westbrook has hurt the team.
But what if the Lakers would have gone back in time to go after the targets they originally wanted? More specifically. Los Angeles had a chance to trade for DeMar DeRozan and also Buddy Hield, while they are probably kicking themselves for letting Alex Caruso go. Here is how the Lakers team would look like if they went back in time to correct their offseason acquisitions.
Trade Package For DeRozan
Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Schroder (Sign and Trade), 2027 First-Round Pick for DeMar DeRozan
The Lakers were interested in DeMar DeRozan and had a chance to go after him last season. They were also in trade talks this offseason but once again could not get the deal over the line. DeRozan was fresh off a season averaging 21.6 PPG and barely missing the All-Star Game. This season, DeRozan is hitting 4th gear as he is putting up 26.3 PPG while forming one of the best duos in the league with Zach LaVine.
DeRozan can create his own shot, make his free throws, and is extremely effective in the clutch. The shooting guard/small forward is off to the races for the 12-7 Chicago Bulls and looks happier than ever playing his game. The Lakers would have been much better off with DeRozan than Russell Westbrook because the former can shoot the three (35.6%) and does not turn the ball over as much.
DeRozan will be a nightmare to defend on the break, and he is a much better scorer alongside Anthony Davis than Russell Westbrook. DeRozan does not need to hold the ball for too long and prospers off the ball as he makes moves to get open. His time with San Antonio has done him wonders because his all-around game is truly at an All-Star level this season.
Trade Package For Hield
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell for Buddy Hield
Other than DeMar DeRozan, the player that was mostly linked with the Los Angeles Lakers was Buddy Hield. The shooting guard is averaging 16.8 PPG on 39.6% shooting from three with the Sacramento Kings. Even when playing on a very bad team, Hield is showing his worth by only averaging 28.6 MPG. With the Lakers, he would have got more playing time and prospered alongside other stars.
Buddy Hield is not an All-Star player and will likely never be, but he is also a better fit for the Lakers instead of Russell Westbrook. The shooting guard can space the floor better than anyone else on the Lakers right now and can also defend at a decent level. Los Angeles scrambled to sign players like him such as Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, and Malik Monk but none of those guys are as good as Hield.
Giving up Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell wasn’t easy this offseason, especially with Russell Westbrook not performing up to par. But losing them for Buddy Hield is much less worse because he would make a killing playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Lakers Starting Lineup
Had the Lakers went back in time and made the correct signings, their team would look a lot better than it does right now. LeBron James suits up at point guard while DeRozan and Hield play alongside him. Either Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard can alternate in the lineup as the Lakers go small or big depending on their opponent. That is a much better option than having Russell Westbrook control the ball for the majority of the game and also shoot a low percentage from three.
Westbrook is an all-time great player and future Hall of Famer, but his resume screams inefficiencies. The point guard is not a good fit with LeBron and Davis because of his lack of shooting, and DeRozan and Hield would have fared better. Not to mention, Caruso would have been a valuable starter as well if they decide to play DeRozan as power forward.
Alex Caruso - 6th Man
Alex Caruso is looking like one of the best defenders in the NBA this season, averaging 7.5 PPG and 4.1 APG while chipping in 2.2 SPG. He is locking up players every night and plays with unrivaled hustle. The guard knows his talent limit but is working hard to make an impact on both ends of the floor.
For the Lakers, Caruso was huge for them during the 2020 championship run. The guard did not need to do more than hitting his open threes, playing lockdown defense, and fighting for loose balls. In those areas, Caruso is truly an impactful player. The Lakers refused to bring him back to the team as the Chicago Bulls offered a $40 million contract. If the Lakers go back in time, they offer a similar salary to their best perimeter defensive player and bring back the Social Media GOAT.
Caruso is way past being a meme player because he helps teams win games. The guard is one of the main reasons that the Chicago Bulls have a 12-7 record which is 3rd in the Eastern Conference. It is clear that Alex Caruso was looking for a big payday and if the Lakers offer what the Bulls offered, he would be in a purple and gold jersey.
The Lakers would probably do anything to go back in time to correct their wrongs. DeRozan was an All-Star snub last year while Buddy Hield is one of the best knockdown shooters in the league. Neither player is selfish and can feed off other stars, characteristics that do not apply to Russell Westbrook. The point guard is a triple-double threat but is mainly concerned with his statistics and playing his style of play.
His style of play worked in Oklahoma City when he was forced to do everything for the team, but it will not work in this case. The point guard has to be more controlled and less involved, but his poor shooting does not help in that way because spotting up for shots is not his strength. Westbrook has yet to make a deep playoff run without Kevin Durant by his side and the Lakers should have known that.
DeRozan is a flat-out stud who is hungry to prove something while Buddy Hield is putting up strong numbers as a role player for a bad team. Meanwhile, Caruso is one of the best defenders in the NBA and the Lakers could have had a chance to fix all of their issues by focusing on multiple players rather than one Hall of Fame star.