Executives around the NBA believe that the Los Angeles Lakers will ride out the 2022-23 season with guard Russell Westbrook if he continues to play well off the bench.
Westbrook, who was moved to the bench by head coach Darvin Ham early in the 2022-23 season, has looked much better in that role. The Lakers are starting to turn things around after a brutal start, winning their last three games to move to 5-10 on the season.
“While some combination of Rob Pelinka, Myles Turner, and Buddy Hield has been trending topics on Twitter after each Lakers loss, many rival executives believe acquiring both players won’t make Los Angeles a contender in the West,” HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto wrote. “Some executives believe the Lakers will stand pat and ride out the Westbrook experiment if he continues to produce off the bench.”
The issue for the Lakers in any Westbrook deal, even if they received Turner and Hield from the Indiana Pacers, is that the team would likely have to part ways with at least one first-round pick in the 2027 or 2029 NBA Draft.
If the move doesn’t make the Lakers a title contender, it’s hard to justify sacrificing that asset, as well as Westbrook, to slightly improve the roster. With Westbrook playing well recently, it doesn’t make much sense for the Lakers to move on from him when his contract expires following the 2022-23 season.
This season, Westbrook is averaging 15.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game while shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. While those aren’t the numbers he put up when he won the league MVP earlier in his career, Westbrook is still contributing in a big way for the Lakers.
He’s shooting a better percentage from beyond the arc than he did last season, and Westbrook is actually averaging more assists per game than he did last season now that he’s coming off the bench.
Now that Westbrook’s minutes are staggered a bit more with superstar LeBron James, he can play with the ball in his hands more, something he’s much more comfortable doing.
Westbrook’s play, as well as a recent stretch of games by Anthony Davis, has propelled the Lakers to three straight wins and out of the No. 14 spot in the West.
There is still a ton of time for the Lakers to assess the trade market, but it appears other executives believe they won’t make a major move.
If that ends up being the case, it will be up to James, Davis and Westbrook to carry the Lakers to the playoffs in the 2022-23 season.