It is not a hot take to say that the Russell Westbrook trade has not panned out for the Los Angeles Lakers. It is not just because Westbrook is careless with the basketball and doesn’t fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It has also hurt the team as it seriously restricted the Lakers from bringing in quality depth around the “big three”. All of the team’s problems that has led to an 18-19 record can stem from the Westbrook trade.
Granted, some other things have not gone the Lakers’ way either. LeBron James missed some time with an abdominal injury and Anthony Davis is currently out with an MCL sprain. That doesn’t make things easier but in the wake of Davis’ absence, LeBron has been playing spectacularly.
LeBron has been playing at an elite level and has completely removed any narratives that he is regressing. His most recent showing on New Year’s Eve against the Portland Trail Blazers was awe-inspiring. On the day after his 37th birthday, LeBron dropped a casual 43 points with 14 rebounds.
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In his last 17 games, LeBron is averaging 31.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 53.8% from the field and 38.4% from three. He is putting up MVP-caliber numbers and if he jut got some help around him he would actually be in the discussion.
Seeing LeBron James play this well has made the Russell Westbrook trade even worse.
We already established how bad the Russell Westbrook trade was and Rob Pelinka has to be watching what LeBron James has been doing with immense regret. The entire reason why the Lakers traded for Westbrook was to lessen the workload for LeBron in the regular season.
The Lakers wanted to add another ball-handler that could take some of the pressure off of LeBron. Because of his age, the Lakers wanted to keep LeBron as fresh as possible, getting someone in Westbrook who could win them games in the regular season. Then, when the playoffs come around, the team could adjust how much Westbrook plays.
The problem is that as we have seen this season, LeBron did not really need that help. What would have been more helpful for LeBron was giving him a deep basketball team with guys who can actually play defense. The Lakers won no problem with this strategy in the title-winning season.
Heck, LeBron has been forced to play more with Westbrook. His 36.8 minutes per game is the most that he has averaged since joining the Los Angeles Lakers. This trade has done the exact opposite while also making the team worse.
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t need Russell Westbrook, at all. While in theory, it makes sense to lessen LeBron’s workload, they could have done that without making a move that seemed objectively terrible when they made it at the time.
And worst of all? The Lakers are stuck in this situation for another season.