NBA insider says a Russell Westbrook move to the Lakers bench is ‘probably inevitable’

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook has started each of the team’s first three games, but that could come to an end soon.

According to ESPN’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers moving Westbrook to the bench is “inevitable” in the 2022-23 season.

“I think a Russell Westbrook move to the bench is probably inevitable unless his performance changes, the team’s performance changes,” Wojnarowski said. “I’m told probably out tonight against Denver. He’s going to see how that hamstring feels today.”

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham tried bringing Westbrook off the bench in one of the team’s preseason games, but he ended up sticking with the former MVP in the starting lineup to begin the 2022-23 season.

Things have not gone well for Westbrook early on this season, as he’s shooting just 28.9 percent from the field and 8.3 percent from beyond the arc. He scored just two points in the Lakers’ second game of the season against the Los Angeles Clippers while shooting 0-for-11 from the field.

During the offseason, Westbrook was the subject of trade rumors with teams like the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz. However, the Lakers were never able to come to an agreement on a deal.

Despite that, there is still time for a deal to be made.

“The big trades that people want with the Lakers, Westbrook and his $47 million out with those first-round picks the Lakers have in ’27 and ’29, all the deals the Lakers didn’t want to do in the offseason, that’s all that’s there two weeks into the season,” Wojnarowski said.

“Teams don’t really get serious about doing deals and maybe pivoting away from trying to be a playoff team or trying to go toward the lottery in a year where there’s Victor Wembanyama available. They’re not going to do that until 20 or 30 games into the season. So, all the deals the Lakers didn’t think gave them enough value for trading those picks, they’re all still there. Utah, Indiana, who the Lakers talked with a lot in the offseason, I’m told they’ve not heard from the Lakers yet this season.

“And so, people are going to have to get used to a team that’s not going to be able to make dramatic change for a while, if really at all this year.”

After an 0-3 start to the 2022-23 season, it’s hard to see the Lakers making a push for the playoffs, never mind the NBA Finals, with their current roster. The Lakers rank dead last in the NBA in 3-point percentage (21.2 percent) and only Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Lonnie Walker IV are averaging more than 10 points per game.

Moving Westbrook to the bench could allow for the Lakers to put another shooter in the starting lineup alongside James and Davis, which could improve the team’s offense.

However, Westbrook would have to be willing to accept a smaller role for the Lakers, and so far he seems unwilling to do so, claiming that coming off the bench in the preseason contributed to his hamstring injury.

After missing the playoffs last season, the Lakers have to be willing to exhaust any option to get the most out of this roster and Westbrook in the 2022-23 campaign.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.