Most, if not all, Los Angeles Lakers fans want Russell Westbrook to be traded since the one-time MVP struggled during the 2021-22 season. Although he averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 78 starts, Westbrook was second in the NBA in turnovers and had the sixth-worst effective field goal percentage, making him a poor fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Westbrook could be traded before training camp starts at the end of the month, but the nine-time All-Star is controlling what he can control and working on his craft. The Lakers guard went viral on September 15th after showing off a new jumper in New York.
Westbrook shot only 29.8% from beyond the arc last season, and among 46 players to take at least 1,000 shots, the UCLA product ranked 42nd in true shooting percentage. Westbrook air-balled and bricked so many shots in 2021-22 that fans started calling him “Russell Westbrick.”
However, Westbrook’s jump shot looked smoother during his New York workout and Lakers fans noticed.
Only time will tell if Westbrook shoots a higher percentage from the field and 3-point line in 2022-23. The future Hall of Famer is clearly doing all he can to improve his jumper.
According to an August 28th report from Marc Stein of Substack, new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham is determined to carve out a “real role” for Westbrook if the veteran guard isn’t traded. The Lakers are still exploring trade possibilities for Westbrook. However, if no trade comes to fruition, Ham will do his best to make it work with Westbrook, who picked up his $47.1 million player option for next season.
Lakers Hope for a Corner-3 Shooting Percentage Bump from Westbrook
According to an August 9th report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers are hopeful that Westbrook will improve his 3-point shooting from the corners next season. The corner 3-pointer is the shortest shot from beyond the arc.
Westbrook hit 43.8% of his 3-pointers from the corner last season, which was fourth on the Lakers. In a July 19th column, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey wrote that Westbrook should embrace a “rim-running role” with the Lakers, which is what Bruce Brown did with the Brooklyn Nets. Brown played the previous two seasons with the Nets before signing a two-year, $13.3 million deal with the Denver Nuggets this summer.
“The situations are far from perfectly analogous, but Bruce Brown spent the first two seasons of his career with the Detroit Pistons as a guard before embracing a rim-running role with the Brooklyn Nets. Westbrook can be a supercharged version of that (assuming a willingness to work on his touch in the paint). He did it to a degree with Houston, but he still started plenty of possessions as the point man,” Bailey wrote. “It’s time to lean even harder into being a cutter, dunker’s spot option and corner three-point shooter.”
Per a September 5th report from Stein, Westbrook is expected to attend the upcoming Lakers minicamp hosted by James if he’s not traded. On July 18th, Haynes reported that Westbrook, James and Davis spoke on the phone, with each All-Star expressing their commitment to one another.
Westbrook ‘Very Open’ to Getting Traded
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Westbrook is “very open” to getting dealt by the Lakers despite not requesting a trade. Russ would prefer to play for a team that will empower him.
One NBA executive who spoke to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report in August believed the Lakers had three remaining “obvious” partners they could pursue to make a Westbrook trade. The exec listed the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz. However, Los Angeles won’t make any Westbrook trade just to dump the three-time assists champion.
According to a September 1st report from Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers are “comfortable” heading into training camp with Westbrook on the roster. Ham spoke to the local media on September 6th and the 49-year-old praised Westbrook’s level of buy-in this offseason.
“Everything has been clear and upfront between he and I,” Ham said. “Like, he’s been a pleasure. I’ve been a huge fan throughout his time in the league. He’s a salt of the earth. And again, he wants to win. I want to help him get that championship ring. But it starts here. It starts today. It starts with the buy-in. It starts with supporting your teammates and supporting a vision and doing that and working your butt off day in and day out. Everyone’s quick to look at the destination but you really have to appreciate the journey and respect and embrace the journey. He’s been that since Day 1. Anytime I call him or I need him, text messages. The communication has been great both ways. He’s in here. He’s in here putting in the work. I love him and I can’t wait to coach him and I can’t wait to succeed with him.”