Forget the doubters and haters who claim the Lakers made a big mistake trading for Russell Westbrook to replace Dennis Schroder as the team’s starting point guard because Russ’ subpar outside shooting is a poor fit.
The reality is Russell Westbrook is a legitimate third superstar for the Lakers who brings more than enough to the table to offset any concerns about his shot selection or subpar shooting percentages from midrange and deep. Westbrook gives the Lakers a Superstar Big Three to match the Nets, two superstars who can create a triple-double every game, a chance at a record for points in transition, and a positive net rating with LeBron on the bench.
Let’s take a closer look at what Russell Westbrook brings to the Los Angeles Lakers and the four reasons why he’ll be the perfect third superstar for LeBron and AD and will lead the purple and gold to the NBA championship.
1. LAKERS WILL HAVE A LEGITIMATE SUPERSTAR BIG THREE
Winning in the NBA comes down to superstars and the Russell Westbrook trade finally gives the Los Angeles Lakers the third superstar they desperately need to keep pace in the arms race with the Brooklyn Nets.
The Brooklyn Nets showed last season how important having a third superstar is when competing for an NBA championship. Despite injuries to all three superstars, Brooklyn still had two superstars available each game. Had L.A. had three superstars last season, they may have been able to work around the injury issues that led to their first round upset at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. The third superstar raises a team’s floor and ceiling.
Besides providing insurance against injuries and unique load management opportunities, having a third superstar also gives the Lakers the versatility to create lethal lineups that teams without three superstars simply can’t match. For example, if healthy, the Lakers could easily stagger their Superstar Big Three so they would have three superstars on the court to start and close games and at least two superstars on the court at all times during the game.
A legitimate Superstar Big Three gives NBA teams vital insurance against injuries to their superstars and the versatility to create dominating lineups with multiple superstars against whom most teams have no defense.
2. LAKERS WILL HAVE TWO TRIPLE-DOUBLE THREATS
The Westbrook trade not only gives the Lakers two superstars capable of posting a triple-double every game this season but also enables them to have a ‘difference-making playmaker’ on the floor all 48 minutes of each game.
The early offseason reports confirmed the Lakers’ top priority this offseason was to acquire a transcendent top-10 point guard to enable LeBron James to give up the ball and move to power forward and Anthony Davis to center. Turning over control of the ball to Russell Westbrook, the greatest triple-double machine in league history with 184 career triple-doubles, guarantees the Lakers will continue to receive elite playmaking from point guard.
Westbrook’s win-loss record when posting a triple double is 138–46 or 75%. While his overall scoring numbers may decrease, Russ should be able to continue to average a triple-double playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Assuming Russ plays all 82 regular season games, the Lakers should have a great chance to win more than 60 games during the regular season, which would be their best record since they went 65–19 in the 2008–09 season.
Having two legitimate triple-double threats in LeBron James and Russell Westbrook should dramatically improve the Los Angeles Lakers’ ability to win games during the long regular season and critical playoff scenarios.
3. LAKERS WILL LEAD LEAGUE IN TRANSITION OFFENSE
With the addition of Westbrook, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to return to the halcyon days of Showtime, when Magic Johnson’s playmaking ignited the greatest fast break transition offense in NBA history.
Adding a superhero like the Flash to a team that already boasts Superman and Batman could be overkill but pushing the ball in transition has become the NBA formula for getting higher percentage shots before defenses get set. Teams understand scoring in transition or early offense opportunities have become a necessity when playing teams who have solid half court defenses. Westbrook’s speed and pressure on the rim in transition are unmatched.
In a disappointing last season, the Lakers struggled mightily in transition, finishing 21st out of 30 NBA teams with a pace of 98.85 but they were still 8th out of 30 teams with 1.14 points per game scored in transition efficiency. With Westbrook running the point, the Washington Wizards finished first last season with a transition pace of 104.67, 1.82 points better than the Bucks, who were the second fastest team in the league with a pace of 102.85.
The addition of Russell Westbrook should enable the Lakers to recreate the halcyon days of Magic Johnson and Showtime and catapult themselves to the top of the league when it comes to transition pace and efficiency.
4. LAKERS WILL WIN THE MINUTES LEBRON JAMES RESTS
The addition of Westbrook will give Los Angeles Lakers an opportunity this season to do something no LeBron James team has been able to do in any of his 19 seasons in the league, which is win the minutes when he rests.
The last two seasons, despite having a second superstar in Anthony Davis, the Lakers still saw their net rating plummet whenever they rested LeBron James. Their production without LeBron hit rock botton against Phoenix. With LeBron James in the lineup, the Lakers posted a +4.8 point differential. When LeBron rested, the Suns destroyed the Lakers, who posted a -46.9 point differential without LeBron during the series, much without Davis.
The Lakers’ problems without LeBron can be attributed to their lack of a ‘difference-making playmaker’ to run the offense when the King was on the bench. The availability of two other superstars clearly changes that dynamic. Being able to play lineups with Westbrook and Davis that can dominate opponents when LeBron James rests could be the biggest advantage having a Superstar Big Three brings to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Winning the non-LeBron minutes could be the biggest game changer the Lakers will reap from trading for Russell Westbrook. Russ and AD plus three high percentage, high volume 3-point shooters could be a lethal lineup.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to share your ideas and comments with other informed Lakers fans, please join us to discuss on Lakerholics.Com.