3. Cut down Russell Westbrook’s playing time
This is hard to do because the Los Angeles Lakers are paying him $91 million over this season and next but it is time to realize that Russell Westbrook is not the star that they thought they were trading for.
If Westbrook did not have his name and his resume then the Lakers would have already cut his minutes. Westbrook is having a negative impact on the team and while you cannot cut him out entirely, he probably should not be playing 30 minutes per game.
That is hard to do with the ego of these superstars but Westbrook would be so much better as a sixth man off the bench that does not play much with LeBron James also on the court. Can the Lakers convince Westbrook to come off the bench? Definitely not, but he needs fewer minutes.
Casual fans that look at the counting stats might advocate for Westbrook and blame the bad depth for the Lakers’ struggles. While the bad depth is also an issue, Westbrook has been the issue.
Even if he is not the worst player on the team, trading for him is what forced the Lakers to make all of the other moves. Westbrook’s contract puts the team in a bind and it doesn’t help when the Lakers are statistically better without him.
Westbrook has played 672 minutes this season and has spent 256 minutes on the bench. In those 256 minutes the Lakers have a net rating that is 6.8 points better than when he is on the court. That is not a small number nor a coincidence. The Lakers are leaps and bounds better when Westbrook is sitting.
The Lakers’ net rating with Westbrook on the court is -5.2, which would rank 26th in the NBA. With Westbrook on the bench, the Lakers’ net rating is 1.6, which would rank 12th. There are still other issues, but the Lakers are a bottom-five team with him on the court and a top-12 team with him sitting.
That is undeniable evidence that Frank Vogel needs to sit Russell Westbrook down more. But will he? Probably not.