Trading for Westbrook: Why the Lakers’ Decision to Pass on First-Round Picks Reveals a Bold New Strategy

Teams Demand High Price for Trading Russell Westbrook

When it comes to potential trades involving Russell Westbrook, teams are not eager to do any favors for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. As a result, any trade partner considering Westbrook will likely request at least one first-round draft pick from the Lakers to complete the deal. This puts the Lakers in a difficult position as they may have to start the season with Westbrook and wait until the trade deadline to find a more agreeable price or explore other options. They could also choose to run it back next season and hope that their new head coach can find success with Westbrook alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Lakers’ Struggle with Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, known for his impressive stats, averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. He appeared in 78 games this season, displaying his durability compared to the injury-plagued seasons of Anthony Davis (40 games) and LeBron James (56 games). However, the Lakers’ Big 3 managed to play together in only 21 games, representing just a quarter of the season, due to injuries. In those games, the Lakers had a record of 10-11. When Westbrook played alongside either LeBron or Davis, the Lakers’ record was 20-32 in 52 games. Additionally, when Westbrook played without both LeBron and Davis, the Lakers went winless with a record of 0-5.

The Initial Trade and its Consequences

When the Lakers initially traded for Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards, many NBA followers considered it to be a questionable move. The Lakers, however, believed it was a great idea. Yet, early in the season, it became evident that Westbrook didn’t quite gel with LeBron and Davis. The Lakers, initially seen as favorites to win the championship, struggled to maintain a .500 record during the first quarter of the season.

Despite injuries to Davis, which caused him to miss a significant portion of the season, the Lakers couldn’t find a trade partner to offload Westbrook. General Manager Rob Pelinka faced difficulty finding a suitable trade that would improve the team and satisfy LeBron’s desire to part ways with Westbrook. Eventually, the Lakers had to stick with Westbrook and the season continued to spiral downwards. They finished with a record of 33-49, placing them in 11th position in the Western Conference.

The Search for a New Head Coach

Following the underwhelming season, the Lakers decided to part ways with head coach Frank Vogel, despite his previous championship success with the team in 2020. This decision ruffled the feathers of many head coaches in the NBA fraternity. The Lakers narrowed down their search for a new head coach to Darvin Ham (Milwaukee Bucks assistant), Terry Stotts (former Portland Trail Blazers head coach), and Kenny Atkinson (former Brooklyn Nets head coach). The hope is that the chosen head coach will have the ability to improve Westbrook’s fit within the team and address the challenges the Lakers faced this season.

RWB and Defensive Struggles

The addition of Westbrook to the Lakers’ roster had an adverse impact on their defense. While Anthony Davis is known for his defensive prowess when he’s healthy, LeBron’s defense has waned as he entered his mid-30s. With LeBron focusing on potential scoring titles, his energy investment shifted more towards offense, resulting in a decline in his defensive contributions. As a result, the Lakers’ defense suffered throughout the season, especially with Westbrook’s lackluster defensive skills. The team allowed an average of 115.1 points per game, ranking them as the third-worst defensive team in the NBA after the Sacramento Kings and the Houston Rockets.

Westbrook’s Shooting Woes and Fan Backlash

In addition to defensive struggles, Westbrook’s shooting performance became a point of criticism. He struggled with outside shots and at the free-throw line, hitting only 29.8% of his three-point attempts this season, consistent with his career average of 30%. Fans mocked Westbrook’s poor shooting, particularly his struggles at the free-throw line, leading to the creation of the “Westbrick” nickname. Westbrook’s free-throw percentage for the season dropped to 66.7%, a significant decline compared to his 80% average during his tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The pressure from fans and media intensified, leading to verbal spats between Westbrook and the media towards the end of the season.

Trade Hurdles and Future Outlook

Considering the challenges and underperformance surrounding Russell Westbrook, other NBA teams are now demanding a high price, often in the form of a first-round draft pick, in any potential trade involving Westbrook. With the Lakers currently facing limited options due to a lack of draft capital or valuable role players for trade transactions, they may have to navigate through another season with Westbrook. The Lakers’ odds to win the 2023 NBA championship currently stand at +2200, but it remains uncertain whether they will even secure a spot in the top six teams in the highly competitive Western Conference next season.


The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in a complex situation with Russell Westbrook, as teams demand a high price to facilitate a trade. Despite Westbrook’s statistical contributions, his fit within the team has been challenging, resulting in defensive struggles and shooting woes. The Lakers were unable to find a suitable trade partner during the previous season, and as they search for a new head coach, they must navigate their options carefully. With uncertainties surrounding Westbrook’s future and the Lakers’ position in the Western Conference, the path ahead remains unclear for the team.


1. How has Russell Westbrook impacted the Lakers’ defense?

Russell Westbrook’s addition to the Lakers’ roster had a negative impact on their defense. Despite Anthony Davis’ defensive prowess, Westbrook’s lackluster defensive skills contributed to the team’s struggles. The Lakers ranked third-worst in the league for points allowed per game.

2. Did the Lakers attempt to trade Westbrook at the deadline?

Yes, the Lakers attempted to trade Westbrook at the deadline, but they were unable to find a suitable trade partner. General Manager Rob Pelinka faced challenges in finding a trade that would benefit the team without sacrificing valuable assets.

3. How did injuries affect the Lakers’ season?

The Lakers’ Big 3, consisting of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, struggled with injuries throughout the season. They played only 21 games together, which impacted the team’s performance. Davis and LeBron both missed a significant number of games, hindering team chemistry and consistency.

4. What challenges will the Lakers’ new head coach face?

The Lakers’ new head coach will inherit a challenging situation involving Russell Westbrook. Coaching the Lakers requires skill and finesse, as well as the ability to manage the team’s star players. The chosen coach will need to find a way for Westbrook to better fit within the team and build a cohesive playing style.

5. Can the Lakers bounce back next season?

While the Lakers possess a talented roster, their future success relies heavily on improving the fit and performance of Russell Westbrook. With the right adjustments, coaching, and team chemistry, the Lakers have the potential to bounce back and compete at a high level within the competitive Western Conference.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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