The Los Angeles Lakers turned some heads on September 17, when they officially agreed to a one-year deal with returning point guard Dennis Schroder, thus giving them significant depth across both backcourt positions.
Interestingly, Schroder, like Russell Westbrook, is a ball-dominant guard who struggles with scoring from the perimeter, either off the dribble or off the catch. So, for Los Angeles to add another version of a guard they’ve been trying to trade all season, it was understandable when they came in for some criticism – despite how well the veteran guard played at the FIBA Eurobasket tournament.
However, according to a Western Conference Executive, who spoke with Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney under the condition of anonymity, the Lakers could be playing checkers while the rest of the league is playing chess – in that Schroder could have been acquired to simply become a trade chip before the trade deadline.
“They have danced around all of this a lot since they got Schroder, and they want to play Beverley on the wing and Schroder at the 2 and all of that. In the end, it’s going to be a trade situation. Because who is your real point guard? It’s LeBron James. They collected some guys who they will try in different spots but they’re also very tradeable contracts and that’s what they’re looking at there,” The executive said.
Interestingly, Schroder, who joined the Boston Celtics during the 2021 free agency period was part of a trade that sent Daniel Theis back to Boston, so there is every chance that history repeats itself and the veteran guard finds himself moving teams once again around the trade deadline.
Westbrook is Expected to be The Lakers’ Starting Guard
Throughout the summer, there has been a lot of back and forth on whether Westbrook would be the Lakers’ lead guard or sixth man, assuming he stayed with the franchise. Speaking to the media following the Lakers’ first practice of the new season, rookie head coach Darvin Ham gave the strongest hint yet that Westbrook would remain the starting point guard for the franchise this season.
“I know there’s this narrative that’s being thrown out there that I never said, you know what I’m saying?… Like, it’s crazy. I mean, what goes on in this building, what goes on with the conversations with Rob [Pelinka], Russ and myself, his agent Jeff [Schwartz]. …You have to hold your tongue a lot and choose not to speak about things. But then people draw different scenarios out of your silence, which is crazy. But he was there front and center today and did well, brought a ton of great energy to the gym,” Ham explained.
Westbrook was Los Angeles’ healthiest star last season, and despite his poor relationship with the fanbase, did provide some reasonable statistics – although man saw them as empty calories. Throughout his 78 regular-season games last season, Westbrook averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 44.4% from the field.
Lakers Have Underdog Mentality This Season
It’s been a tough stretch for the Lakers since they won a championship in 2020. First, they were dispatched in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs by the Phoenix Suns, before failing to make the post-season altogether last year, despite adding a third superstar in Westbrook.
So, it should be no surprise that the purple and gold are coming into this season with a chip on their shoulder and an underdog mentality – something which veteran forward Anthony Davis spoke on with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin following a practice session on September 27.
“We’re treating this season like we have a chip on our shoulder. We’re the underdogs…Obviously, the world is looking to see what we do, but as you said, they’re not talking about us and that’s fine,” Davis said, “For me, I’m coming in with that mindset to dominate.
Assuming the Lakers can make a trade or two in order to add some perimeter shooting, the franchise has a great chance to make some noise in the post-season, especially if their star players can remain healthy and everybody is coming in looking to prove a point.