Lakers look foolish as former role player is putting together career year
In the last few years, the concept of “mortgaging your future” for a short-term upgrade has blown up in team’s faces more often than it has succeeded. The Clippers and Nets are reeling from the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and James Harden deals, and the Russell Westbrook deal is crippling the Los Angeles Lakers.
LA had a thin bench, to begin with, but the Westbrook trade saw them part ways with key secondary pieces like Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With LA at the bottom of the Western Conference, this deal has been one of the worst (if not the worst) that Rob Pelinka has ever made.
Not only is Westbrook someone who doesn’t fit the style of play that most LeBron James acolytes seem to have, but the pieces they parted with are having their best seasons in a while. Kuzma is becoming a very lethal scorer for the Washington Wizards, while the departed KCP is shooting the lights out for the Denver Nuggets.
Caldwell-Pope is currently leading the entire NBA in 3-point percentage, nailing an insane 54% of his attempts for a Nuggets team that will likely ride reigning back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic to a deep playoff run. If only LA didn’t give up on the veteran sniper.
The Lakers shouldn’t have traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Caldwell-Pope got his ring in LA, but he never averaged more than 11.3 points per game when he played with James. The Klutch Sports client has averaged 13 points per game with Washington and Denver, making 41% of his 3-pointers while he’s at it.
Outside of a player like Lonnie Walker suddenly going crazy and having a solid individual night, the Lakers lack role players that can be super effective from 3-point range on a consistent basis. It’s part of the reason they’ve kept losing despite actually playing solid defense on a general scale.
The M.O. for every team James plays on is to surround him with 3-point shooters to let LeBron drive to the basket and dish it out when the defense collapses. Instead, the Lakers chose to trade two ascending shooters for a ball-dominant non-shooter in Westbrook, and they’re still reaping the seeds sown as a result of that deal.
While Caldwell-Pope puts his talents to the test in Denver, LA is stuck in NBA purgatory watching Westbrook come off the bench in a desperate attempt to extract something of value from this season. This looks like another trade where Pelinka got the short end of the stick.