According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the Lakers have been considering a few different options for shaking up their 12th-place roster. The most ambitious plan was to package Westbrook’s expiring $47 million salary with one or two draft picks to get a superstar, or to get multiple players – like the long-discussed Indiana deal for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner.
The second option is to make a smaller deal centered around the expiring deals of Patrick Beverley ($13 million) and Kendrick Nunn ($5.25 million), plus some picks. This wouldn’t get the Lakers a super star, but it might get them some players that fit the roster better – namely, someone who can make three-pointers, and perhaps another defensive big man.
Option three would be to do both, but Sam Amick reports that a Lakers source thinks it’s unlikely Westbrook is traded before the deadline in February. And the reason is Westbrook’s recent level of play.
Coach Darvin Ham moved Westbrook out of the starting lineup four games into the season. Up until then – in a small sample of three games – Westbrook was averaging 10.3 points, shooting 29 percent and he’d made just one of his twelve three-point attempts.
Off the bench, he’s shooting 41.7 percent – which still isn’t good – but it’s a lot better. Same goes for his three-point shooting – it’s improved to 31.1 percent, but it’s still bad for a guard.
It’s not even that the team has been much better with Westbrook – Amick writes that “the Lakers’ net rating has been eight points better when he’s off the floor (+4.6) than when he’s on (-3.4; the worst mark among the team’s top seven rotational players in that span).” But he’s no longer being blamed for the team’s struggles.
Part of it is that despite his shortcomings, Westbrook plays very hard. While one can question his shot selection, it’s hard to quibble with his effort. And Westbrook hasn’t complained about his role aside from one postgame press conference in the preseason.
The other element is that Westbrook has now been on the trade block for months, and no team has been willing to give up the superstar or multiple players the Lakers are seeking – or at least not without getting an unprotected first-round pick in return. Perhaps the Lakers are simply accepting this reality and focusing on moving the more manageable Beverley and Nunn deals.
Still, the fans in Crypto.com Arena are no longer booing the Lakers’ sixth man or yelling “Westbrick” when he shoots. And with Steph Curry out for the next few weeks, perhaps the road to the playoffs gets easier in the West. For better or worse, the Lakers are riding with Westbrook the rest of the way.