The Russell Westbrook trade has been heavily criticized in many different ways here at Lake Show Life. It was clear when the Los Angeles Lakers made the move out of desperation and despite our best efforts to look at the trade with a glass-half-full mindest, it simply has not worked out.
Not only is Westbrook the poor fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis that we imagined, but his contract seriously restricts the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers had to let Alex Caruso walk and outside of Talen Horton-Tucker, had to exclusively bring in minimum players with one Taxpayer’s Mid-Level Exception in Kendrick Nunn.
The result has been a team that lacks quality depth, especially on the defensive side. The Lakers would be much better off with the three rotation players that they had instead of Westbrook. But at the end of the day, that is the bed that the Lakers made and they have to lay in it.
It has not been all doom and gloom. Perhaps the best storyline for the Lakers this season, at least in the last few weeks, has been the emergence of Malik Monk. Monk was someone who multiple writers hyped up when the team signed him to a veteran minimum deal and he has lived up to the expectations as a microwave scorer.
Since coming off the COVID-19 list and finally getting a bigger role, Monk is averaging 20 points per game while shooting 52.3% from the field and 47.5% from beyond the arc. He is the perfect shooter to put alongside LeBron James and was destined to be a Laker.
This bright spot of the 2021-22 season has been nice, but it has only made the dark spots of this team look even worse.
Malik Monk’s emergence for the Los Angeles Lakers makes the Russell Westbrook trade even worse in hindsight.
A few weeks back I wrote about how LeBron James playing at such a high level this season made the Westbrook trade look even worse in hindsight. The Lakers traded for Westbrook to give LeBron some relief in the regular season and it obviously is not working (and he didn’t need it). Monk’s emergence makes the trade look worse for similar reasons while also adding a new wrinkle.
First of all, Monk’s emergence is proving that the Los Angeles Lakers did not have to lean into this desperate move for a third “star” and his massive contract. If a trade opened that made sense then sure, the Lakers should have done it. Someone like Kyle Lowry would have been great for this team.
However, the Lakers did not need that. All the team needed was to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis with two things: quality defenders and quality shooters. That is why the team won the championship in 2020.
The Lakers saw that Brooklyn has three superstars and convinced themselves that they needed a star trio to win the title, which is just bonkers. It is a pre-conceived notion because of the “big threes” that we have seen in the league that you need three stars to win the title. You don’t!
At their best, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are two top-10 players in the league. With how James Harden is playing this season, there is not a single team in the league that has that same luxury. They were more than enough and Monk would have been the perfect third scorer to come off the bench and average 18 points a game as a pure three-point shooter.
However, all it took was one injury-riddled season and an early playoff exit for the Lakers to lose sight of the reality of the situation.
Not only does Monk prove that all the Lakers needed was better rotation players, but the team can’t even keep him now! Westbrook is going to make $47 million and unless the Lakers figure out how to trade him and free up money they are not going to have the space to bring Monk back.
Monk is going to have a competitive market and the Lakers cannot even use the full MLE on him because it would hard cap the team and they cannot be hard-capped because they are so much above the luxury tax because of Westbrook.
And yet again, that is why the Russell Westbrook trade is horrible. It is not only making things worse this season but it is making it impossible for the team to improve at all for next season as well.