Are the Lakers Now the Favorites? Opinions Are Split Over Russell Westbrook’s Impact

The Lakers have been the NBA’s clear-cut favorite team for the past six years. As the best in the West, they have won the last four titles, while turning into the NBA’s version of the Yankees. However, this season has introduced some new questions. If the Lakers are to defend their title, and are to remain the NBA’s model side, they’ll need a healthy and productive Russell Westbrook, who has missed the first 25 games of the season with a knee injury.

If you’re a Lakers fan, this season has been rough. Sure, the team has won three of its first four games, but they’re losing to the Clippers by an average of more than 22 points per game, and the Warriors are putting up a 30-point win per outing. So what gives? Is the team’s new roster finally catching up to them, or are the Lakers peaking at the wrong time?

I don’t have the answer to this question, but it’s important to consider what the Lakers have assembled to contend with the Warriors. Their starting five boasts three All-Stars in LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook, as well as a very solid supporting cast—including the sharpshooting of Klay Thompson, the rebounding of Draymond Green, and the scoring of Stephen Curry.. Read more about lakers 2023 and let us know what you think.

While it seemed to be a surprise, Russell Westbrook’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers had been in the works for a few weeks. With Westbrook joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, the Lakers now have a genuine Big Three. Will it, however, be enough to propel the Lakers to another title?

Throughout the day of the draft on July 29, rumors circulated that the Sacramento Kings were planning to trade sharpshooter Buddy Hield to the Los Angeles Lakers. That was essentially ripped out from under them by the Westbrook trade. Whether Westbrook helps or hinders James’ pursuit for a fifth ring is a point of contention. Before we get into it, let’s take a look at the trade’s impact.

Russell Westbrook is a favorite with moving firms these days.

Russell Westbrook and LeBron James are joining forces with the Lakers

Russell Westbrook and LeBron James are joining forces with the Lakers The Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook (4) defends the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James (23) during the fourth quarter at Staples Center on February 22, 2023. | Getty Images/Katelyn Mulcahy

Russell Westbrook began his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he spent the first 11 years of his career. The Lakers, on the other hand, are Westbrook’s fourth club in four seasons. Once the deal is finalized at the start of the next league year, he will be a Laker.

According to ESPN, Washington will get Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the 22nd overall selection from the Lakers. Westbrook joins the Lakers. The Washington Wizards traded their first-round selection to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for rookie player Aaron Holiday.

Kuzma is a player that is both despised and overvalued by Lakers fans. Since his breakthrough rookie season in 2017–18, fans have swapped Kuzma for everything up to and including prime Michael Jordan one-for-one in the past three seasons. They just didn’t care for Kuzma playing for the Lakers. Harrell signed as a free agency with the Los Angeles Lakers and took a huge step back from his Sixth Man of the Year form in 2019–20. Caldwell-Pope is a capable No. 2 guard who can both shoot and defend.

Meanwhile, Westbrook will be 33 in November and is often regarded as a statistic accumulator. Westbrook, the NBA MVP in 2016–17, has five of the six seasons in which a player has averaged a triple-double in NBA history. All of them arrived during the past six years.

Here’s why Westbrook and the Lakers won’t be able to win it all.

With a triumvirate of James, Davis, and Westbrook, the Lakers are unable to spread the floor.

Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are not the same person. He’s a lifetime 30.5 percent 3-point shooter who had three seasons of shooting less than 30 percent before exploding to 31.5 percent last year. Last season, Caldwell-Pope was LA’s top 3-point shooter, hitting 41.0 percent of his attempts. Marc Gasol, a big guy, hit 41.0 percent, while Alex Caruso, a backup guard, hit 40.1 percent.

Caldwell-Pope is no longer with us. Gasol is committed to a one-year contract for next season, although he will be 37 years old. Caruso is a free agent with no restrictions. With a 36.5 percent 3-point shooting percentage, James is the next best player behind those two. If James is your greatest shooter, there is some validity to the notion that spacing will be a major issue.

In the video above, Stephen A. Smith points out a major difference between the Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets, who are the current favorites to win the championship next season. This is a deadly flaw for LA. Since 2017–18, James hasn’t shot more than 70% from the line, though he came close last season with 69.8%.

Westbrook’s yips started four years ago and haven’t stopped since. He made 82.3 percent of his free throws in his first nine seasons. Over the past four years, Westbrook’s percentage has dropped to 70.4 percent, including a career-low 65.6 percent in 2023–21. The Nets’ Big Three of Kyrie Irving (92.2 percent), Kevin Durant (88.2 percent), and James Harden (85.6 percent in Brooklyn) on the other hand, seldom miss.

There are, however, reasons to believe the Lakers can win with Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook’s return to Los Angeles is a boon for the Lakers. 7TeMwU

Russell Westbrook is a Los Angeles native who attended UCLA for two seasons. He’s traveled to the Great Plains, South Texas, and Washington, D.C. since then. Westbrook may be motivated by the prospect of returning home. In the same way, after 13 seasons, you’re still without a ring. Russ has only appeared in one NBA Finals.

Would Hield’s presence have aided the Lakers’ spacing? Yes, of course. Is Westbrook of any assistance in this regard? Absolutely.

But will it make a difference? When James, Davis, and Westbrook are on their game, the Lakers have three players who can completely dominate a defense on their own. While spacing is desirable, teams have previously won by attacking the rim at will. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a solid NBA Finals performance, seldom leaving the area to shoot.

Russell Westbrook will have to consent to a ball-sharing agreement, something he resented when he was in Houston with Harden. The Lakers, on the other hand, are prepared for a straight ground attack on the NBA next season, rather than long bombs.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: The Los Angeles Lakers are considering bringing in a former NBA Finals MVP.

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