RussRussell Westbrook was out Wednesday night with a hamstring injury as the Lakers were soundly defeated on the road against a Denver Nuggets squad missing Michael Porter Jr. and featuring a sub-100 percent Jamal Murray. Truthfully, the Lakers could have used Westbrook’s energy. Someone needed to stand up to Nikola Jokić late in that game when James went on a run to try and close the deficit at the top of the fourth quarter. Instead, the two-time MVP scored eight points and bothered Davis with pressure defense. Davis attempted two field goals in the fourth quarter and no free throws.
It has been clear who Davis is since last season when James missed time early. While he can be a major contributor, and possibly even a leader in the box score, he can’t be relied on to create offense when his team needs it. Davis’ teammates need to make scoring easier for him, not the other way around.
At least Westbrook has the ability to apply significant pressure to a defense. While not as quick as he used to be, he can still blow past opposing defenders and finish at the rim, or tally an assist when he gets cut off. If it wasn’t for his tendency to fire up ill-timed shots he would be a better offensive player than Davis. The other side of the ball ,however, Davis is stellar while Westbrook would be better off intentionally steal-hunting on every defensive possession than attempting to play within a scheme.
The Lakers need to trade Westbrook for many reasons. He doesn’t fit next James the way that another ball-dominant guard did — Kyrie Irving . Westbrook needs the volume to get into rhythm and be effective while Irving was able to maximize every time the ball was in his hands. Also, Westbrook has appeared disengaged many times this season. However, the reason the Lakers need to trade him the most is that their roster is so shallow their toes are getting scraped on the bottom of the pool, and Westbrook’s expiring contract has as much value as almost any player on the team.
Bringing in Westbrook cost the Lakers several key rotation players on a team that, in 2020-21, went into freefall when both James and Davis got hurt during the second half of the regular season. The Lakers needed another creator on offense, and they got literally that when they acquired Westbrook. He can create at a moment’s notice. Will his creations help? That varies from possession to possession.
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This past offseason, the Lakers didn’t bring back Carmelo Anthony. They traded Stanley Johnson and Talen Horton-Tucker for Patrick Beverley. Malik Monk walked in free agency. And the team brought back key bubble contributor Dennis Schröder, whom they hope will be ready to play some time in November.
The only move the Lakers have left — that they would be willing to make — is packaging Westbrook’s $47 million contract and hoping they can get 60 cents on the dollar for it. That package, however, is only mildly appealing because the Lakers do not have a first-round selection to pair it with until 2027.
Personally, I would try to unload Davis and Westbrook at the deadline to maybe pull a miracle and try to get back in the lottery this season, or at least get a couple of those picks back in the future. The Lakers still are the NBA’s glamor franchise, and with those big contracts off of the books they’d have a load of cap space in 2023 and have something to build with in the future with a small bit of draft capital. James and Rich Paul would just have to be unhappy in the short run.
That is a move that Rob Pelinka, the Ramseys, nor Jeanie Buss would ever make, but they most certainly need to be willing to make their 2027 first-rounder untouchable unless they can bring in Tyrese Haliburton, Collin Sexton, or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If not, their standing offer should be their 2029 first-rounder, Westbrook, and any other two players on the roster not named James or Davis.
As badly as the Lakers need to get rid of Westbrook, it’s not solely because of his play. If a “Most Disappointing Laker” award existed, Davis should get it by a unanimous vote. The Lakers have a roster that is in desperate need of a talent infusion if they want to be competitive this season. Westbrook’s $47 million price tag just happens to be the best way to get it done.