This offseason has seen many big moves that have drastically improved teams. This upcoming season may be one of the best seasons in recent history.
An example of these improved teams is the Miami Heat. Adding Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, and resigning Victor Oladipo are some of the great moves made by the Heat. Another team that has drastically improved is the Chicago Bulls. Just adding former Lakers point guard, Lonzo Ball, improved the Bulls significantly. Then they went one step further and added four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozen to their roster.
Lake Show Hype
The Lakers most definitely had the biggest move of the offseason, but the jury is still out on whether or not they had the best move.
That divisive move was trading for Russell Westbrook. The doubt isn’t because people doubt the player Westbrook is, though he definitely has his critics, but rather how he fits with the Lakers. LA created a ‘Big Three’ that doesn’t seem to be the most natural fit. Whilst these concerns are valid, it needs to be remembered the Lakers still have three great players.
Not just great. Anthony Davis is one of the most skilled big men the league has ever seen, Westbrook is an all-time great point guard, and LeBron James is in the discussion of the greatest player of all time.
When you have three players on these levels, they will most definitely work hard at finding the best way to win games together and get the best out of each other.
Why Is Westbrook Not the Most ‘Natural Fit’ ?
As said before, the concerns of how Westbrook’s game will fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ is valid. Davis and James both have games that benefit from being surrounded by great shooters.
Davis being in the post can kick out for a shooter when the inevitable double team comes. Having shooters around him makes him harder to deal with. James has historically been surrounded by shooters in his career. His game creates a lot of open shots on the perimeter for his shooters. He is so effective driving to the paint it forces defenses to leave openings that James is great at exploiting.
The preferred replacement for Dennis Schroder would have probably been a guard who is also a very reliable shooter and efficient. Westbrook, however, shot 43.9% from the field last year, so he definitely cannot be argued as an efficient player. He also shot 31.5% from three on 4.2 attempts per game.
However, these concerns are being stretched out of proportion. The Lakers have done well to fill out their roster with shooters that will provide much-needed three-point shooting alongside their Big Three.
Why Westbrook Will Thrive With the Lakers
Russell Westbrook is a nine-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, three-time assists champion, former MVP, and has been selected for an All-NBA team nine times.
He is an all-time great who is still playing at a very high level. He plays hard and with intensity every night, which is something the Lakers could definitely use. Westbrook has averaged 23.2 points per game across his entire career, but the most impressive thing, and the reason why he will thrive at the Lakers, is his playmaking. In his career, he has averaged 8.5 assists per game which is incredible.
This last season, he averaged 11.7 APG in what was his fourth time averaging a triple-double in the last five seasons. In the last six years, Westbrook has averaged 10 plus assists in five seasons.
He is an elite playmaker. The Lakers most definitely needed a playmaker, and they now have one of the best in the league. Having a great playmaker like Westbrook will only make James better. He can play off the ball more and is relieved of some of his facilitating duties.
It is a lot to ask of James to facilitate and also score 25+ points a night. James now can conserve more energy and possibly be more aggressive on offense when the Lakers need it.
Of course, Westbrook is also more than just a playmaker. He is a very talented scorer, great at getting to the basket. His playmaking is just the aspect of his game that LA will benefit from the most.
One of the best parts of Westbrook joining the Lakers is how strong he makes their rotations. It is nothing new that LeBron-led teams struggle when he goes to the bench.
Now that the Lakers have another elite playmaker, Vogel can have rotations where Westbrook runs the offense while James and/or Davis rest. The Lakers have the shooters to surround Westbrook when James and Davis go to the bench. Having a ‘big three’ strengthens your rotations considerably as it lets you rest your stars and also not have many moments when all three are out of the game.
Yes, Westbrook is inefficient and not a reliable three-point shooter, but you also have to consider the situations he has played in. With the Lakers, Westbrook does not need to attempt 20 shots from the field per game. He is playing with two other players who can score at a high level.
As for his three-point shooting, there are so many other levels to his game that allow us to look past this deficiency. The three-point shot is so important in today’s game, but that doesn’t mean the other aspects on which Westbrook thrives don’t hold weight.
This season, Westbrook may prove that he was the best acquisition from the offseason, and if he, James, and Davis can find an effective way to get the best out of each other, this move will play a massive part in the Lakers winning another championship.
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