Russell Westbrook becomes a good fit for the Lakers as a sixth man

Looks like Russ might have some trade-in value.

Looks like Russ might have some trade-in value.
Picture: beautiful pictures

Russell Westbrook’s first season in LA was a crushing failure. He’s placed in a roster of non-ADDCs that includes LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a confusing mix of mismatched pieces. Among Rob Pelinka’s misfit toys, however, none despised last season’s defeat more than Westbrook.

Westbrook’s inaugural campaign in LA resulted in his worst single-season shooting average since his growing years as a professional player. He’s made a two-pointer percentage lower than he’s had in a decade, seeing his admirable support and recoveries per game fall below the double-digit average he’s been accustomed to since 2015 and he’s posted his worst player performance rating since he was a rookie.

It’s especially jarring for a fickle defender who’s been on the move for the past three years through a variety of trades. As a rapidly depreciating commodity with a pogo-sporting prowess sure to wane as he enters his mid-30s, teams have been playing hot potato with Westbrook for three years. The key is not to get stuck with a max contract player with questionable decision making and no residual commercial value. Westbrook’s stock plummeted and LA couldn’t wait to get into the bag. Things got so bad that he found himself belittled by the name “Westbrick”.

Westbrook’s downward trend continued earlier this year, in the Lakers’ first four games. The team stumbled right from the gate, going 0-4, and the Westbrick phenomenon culminated with a 0-11 shooting performance against the Clippers.

Since being benched by Darvin Ham, Westbrook has played sublime. In the first four games of the season, Westbrook’s shot selection and his jump launch required an exorcism.

He scored 10.3 points and 4.3 assists while shooting under 8.3% on 3 balls and sucking 29% off the pitch. Given that the small sample size is affected by Westbrook pushing the gutter balls towards the post against the Clippers, it’s safe to say that not much has changed during the season to expect anything better from Westbrook. Playing without the ball in the lineup with LeBron James, Westbrook was an anchor in the Lakers’ attack.

Since being moved to the bench, Westbrook’s utilization rate has increased by seven points from 21.5 to 28.5. He has increased his on-field scoring rate to 47%, shoots 45% from distance from 3 points, scores 19 points per night while making almost 8 assists per game and has a contract new during my time in LA

It’s not surprising to have Westbrook run on backup plans and in a James-free squad. Offense rotates around its intended axis more naturally as Westbrook operates separately from LeBron’s gravity.

three out of The Lakers’ best lineup this season in terms of plus-minus Points of difference feature Westbrook and Davis (plus Austin Reaves) on the ring without LeBron James. Those rosters have outscored teams by 35 points this season. Westbrook is the one operated in the pick and roll game with Davis. He is the one who dominates the rock and initiates the offense. His bravery returned even as the Lakers remained sunk in the rankings.

Ironically, LA is considered Kyrie Irving’s destination for the season. Despite being fit and focused on basketball instead of his Amazon Prime account, Irving is a far superior point guard. However, Westbrook is now doing enough to keep his commercial value up while Irving has become Brooklyn’s albatross. In the long run, Westbrook won’t be the Laker. He may have been kicked out of town before the trading deadline, but at least he has revived the depressed market because of his talent.

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