Russell Westbrook has reportedly made a final decision on his future with the Los Angeles Lakers.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported on the October 26 episode of “NBA Countdown” that Westbrook, 33, wants out of Los Angeles.
“But [Westbrook] knows [the Lakers] want him gone,” Smith said. “From what I’m hearing, he practically wants to be gone, but they can’t just let him go for nothing.”
Westbrook is averaging 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 28.9% from the field and 8.3% from beyond the arc this season. The Lakers are 0-4 and Westbrook already has a plus-minus of -16. The 2016-17 MVP didn’t play on October 26 against the Denver Nuggets due to a hamstring injury.
The Lakers tried to trade Westbrook during the offseason and the nine-time All-Star was aware of that. According to an October 3 report from Sam Amick, Shams Charania and Jovan Buha of The Athletic, Los Angeles seriously considered trading Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Indiana Pacers for center Myles Turner and shooting guard Buddy Hield before training camp started. The Lakers also discussed Westbrook trades with the Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs, league sources told Heavy.com.
Westbrook Wants to Be Somewhere Where He’s Wanted
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN said on the September 10 episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast that Westbrook was “very open” to getting moved by the Lakers over the summer despite not requesting a trade.
“He hasn’t asked for a trade,” Shelburne said. “I’ve been assured of that. But he’s open to that and somebody who wants him and wants to empower him and wants him to be Russell Westbrook of old.”
Westbrook wasn’t a good fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis last season and he’s been even worse in 2022-23. He’s 3-of-17 on jump shots this season, according to Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN. Westbrook, one of the greatest players in NBA history, has become a liability on offense since becoming a less-effective shooter.
Per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, opponents are contesting jump shots by Westbrook only 41.2% of the time this season. Per Second Spectrum, that’s the lowest contest rate in NBA tracking data history, which dates back to 2013-14.
“To put Westbrook’s 41.2 percent contest rate in perspective, only two other players on record have had less than 50 percent of their jumpers contested: Joakim Noah, at 48.7 percent in 2013-14 with the Bulls, and Andre Roberson, at 48.8 percent during the 2016-17 season with the Thunder,” O’Connor wrote. “This season, Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon’s 60 percent contest rate is the league’s second-lowest behind Westbrook’s.”
Westbrook, who will turn 34 on November 12, is in the final year of his contract. It’s unknown whether a team would have interest in acquiring and keeping him. The Jazz, Pacers and Spurs have been predicted to waive Westbrook if they traded for him.
The Lakers Could Use Hield or Doug McDermott
The Lakers could use either Hield from the Pacers or Doug McDermott from the Spurs. They desperately need shooters around James and Davis. Los Angeles is shooting only 22.3% from beyond the arc as a team this season.
Hield is a career 39.8% shooter from 3-point range, while McDermott is at 41.1%. James and Davis would have an easier time scoring if they had more space to operate with. Hield and McDermott would help the Lakers become more dynamic since they can stretch the floor and create more driving lanes for James and Davis due to their ability to shoot 3-pointers.
After losing their first four games of the season, this Lakers roster doesn’t have the look of a playoff squad and won’t until there’s a blockbuster trade. The Lakers are last in the NBA in offensive rating and second to last in points per game.