The Athletic’s Jovan Buha doesn’t expect Westbrook to be in the Lakers’ starting lineup on Tuesday, Oct. 18 when the team begins the 2022-23 regular season against the Golden State Warriors.
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) October 14, 2022
The Lakers and head coach Darvin Ham reportedly hope that Westbrook will play freely when he leads the team’s second unit.
There's a hope that Westbrook can play freer and faster with ball in his hands on second unit — and have to worry less about fitting away from ball around the starting group. It is certainly an idea they'll continue to discuss with start of regular season next week.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 14, 2022
There’s no doubt that Westbrook struggled in the starting lineup at times last season, and with the Lakers adding several guards to the roster in the offseason, the team can afford to move him to the bench in an attempt to get the most out of him.
Last season, the former MVP averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from beyond the arc.
With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the starting unit, the Lakers could use a combination of Austin Reaves, Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, Kendrick Nunn and others to fill in the rest of the lineup.
The Lakers could also go to a bigger lineup with Davis at the power forward position and start Damian Jones or Thomas Bryant at center.
Davis, who is sitting out the team’s preseason finale with lower back tightness, is expected to be good to go for the team’s season opener.
Davis sitting out is purely precautionary. He will play in the season opener in GSW. Schroder's injury will likely cause him to miss some time to start the season. https://t.co/VIc7zj7OCY
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 14, 2022
For Westbrook, coming off the bench is not something he’s done often in his NBA career. In 1,021 career games, Westbrook has 1,004 starts and averages 34.7 minutes per game. All 17 games that Westbrook has come off the bench in his career came in his rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It will certainly be an adjustment for the nine-time All-Star, but the Lakers seem to be willing to do anything to win and get back to the playoffs in the 2022-23 season.
Lakers fans will get a first chance to see Westbrook off the bench on Friday night against the Kings. That game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. PST.