The Enigma That’s Russell Westbrook: Can the Lakers Make Him a Winner?
That’s unfortunately what peoole think about Russell Westbrook. That the issue is more about the Lakers making him a winner than him making the Lakers a winner. This for one of the best point guards to ever play the game.
One thing for sure is Russ doesn’t give a damn about what people think. Like Chris Paul, he’s been written off as a mercurial superstar who’s style of play doesn’t work well within a team game and doesn’t translate into winning. Labeling Russ a loser is the ultimate disrespect, especially when you consider he averaged a triple-double four of the last five years and led his team to a successful winning record in nine of his eleven seasons in the NBA.
So what gives? Are the critics and pundits right that Russ is a poor fit for what the Lakers need? What does he have to change in his game for the Lakers to win a championship? Can the Lakers make Westbrook a winner?
WHY ARE CRITICS AND HATERS SO DOWN ON RUSS?
I wonder if the trade for Westbrook would have met with the same negative media and fan response had the Lakers had not been publicly on the verge of pulling off a trade for Buddy Hield, who was the perfect fit for the Lakers.
That the Lakers changed course at the last minute and traded for Westbrook instead of Hield has been the lead story as analysts evaluated the team’s roster moves and questioned whether Buddy Hield would have been a better fit. There’s no question Hield’s high volume, high percentage 3-point shooting would have been a perfect fit on the Lakers but that doesn’t give critics the right to ignore Russ’ potential contributions as a legitimate third superstar.
Westbrook not only is a poor midrange and 3-point shooter but his presence on the court eliminates point guard as a position that could create spacing for LeBron and AD, leaving the Lakers with only two positions for shooters. Rather than waste one of those positions on Gasol or Howard, the Lakers superstars proposed that LeBron move to the four and AD to the five so the Lakers could then use the two and three spots for volume 3-point shooters.
Russ at the point unquestionably makes it harder for the Lakers to put shooters on the court but that doesn’t mean they can’t figure it out. After all, Russell Westbrook gives the Lakers a legitimate Superstar Big Three.
WHAT DOES RUSS HAVE TO DO FOR LAKERS TO WIN?
The Lakers have always been a franchise that thinks big and shoots for the moon so it’s no surprise they opted to gamble on a home run in the form of Russell Westbrook over a solid extra base hit in the form of Buddy Hield.
So how do the Lakers transform their gamble on Westbrook into a win? It all starts with the private meeting Russ had with LeBron and AD at LeBron’s home a couple of weeks before free agency. That meeting ignited the trade. During that meeting, Westbrook told James and Davis he would play whatever role they wanted him to play while LeBron and AD suppsedly said they would be willing to move to the four and five to accomodate Russ.
What do the Lakers need from Westbrook? First, they need his superstar playmaking and attack dog mentality as a point guard to allow LeBron James to move to the four and play off the ball to save energy and reduce workload. Second, they need Russ to become a pass first point guard other than when attacking the rim. Russ’ job will be to run the offense and create easy shots for teammates, whether LeBron or AD attacking the rim or 3-point shooters.
Westbrook is so talented that he should be able to continue to average a triple- double as a pass first point guard on the Lakers. If he can average 10 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds per game, the Lakers will be champs.
Russ, LeBron, and AD agreeing to play small ball was the trigger that made the Westbrook trade make sense and the biggest strategic change since the Lakers completed the mega trade with the Pels for Davis two years ago.
After two years of accomodating AD’s preference to play the four, the Lakers finally received approval to move Anthony to the five to open up both the shooting guard and small forward positions for needed 3-point shooters. Finally, the Lakers will play their two superstars at their best positions and start games with their best lineup. That change combined with the addition of Russell Westbrook should unleash LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
If Russ is serious about adapting his game to what LeBron and AD need, expect the Lakers to make him a winner and the team to enjoy their best season since LeBron James and Anthony Davis put on purple and gold.
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