Skip Bayless on Trae Young-to-Lakers buzz: ‘There’s a lot of Russell Westbrook operating in him’

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Fox Sports analyst Skip Bayless is not a fan of the idea of Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young on the Los Angeles Lakers, as he sees similarities between Young and former Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.

“What was the biggest mistake LeBron [James] ever made?” Bayless asked. “It was Russell Westbrook. And there’s a lot of Russell Westbrook operating in Trae Young. By the way, Trae – he’s a good guy. He’s a nice guy. He’s fun to be around. So, that’s never an issue. … He’s been six years in this league now. He has led the NBA in total turnovers over those six years by far.”

Bayless also expressed some concerns about the 25-year-old’s 3-point shooting in the postseason.

While Young could be a potential trade candidate for the Lakers this coming offseason, he is a ball-dominant player that may have to adjust his game to play alongside James.

The Lakers struggled when Westbrook — another ball-dominant player — was on the roster with James, failing to make the playoffs in the 2021-22 season.

Los Angeles is currently in the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the West one season after making the Western Conference Finals.

The team has seen guard D’Angelo Russell thrive this year, as he averaged 18.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game during the regular season, so it may not want to make a move at the point guard spot anyway.

Bayless also believes that the Lakers should want James to initiate the offense more than anyone, which would perhaps make Young a tricky fit.

“He’s fun to watch,” Bayless later said. “And he is a gifted passer, but LeBron’s a better passer. He just is. LeBron’s still, to me, the best passer in basketball. And I want LeBron to initiate the offense for most of the game. Maybe down the stretch, you start to share the ball more and you get Austin [Reaves] and D-Lo involved if you’re gonna try to close a game against Denver. But for the most part – for about three-and-a-half quarters – I need LeBron initiating and orchestrating my offense.”

There’s no doubt that Young is a great passer, as he’s averaged at least 9.3 assists per game in five straight seasons, but he also turns the ball over at a high rate.

Young turned the ball over more times than any player in the 2021-22 season (303 turnovers) and the 2022-23 season (300 turnovers). While he also led the NBA in total assists in those two seasons, there is certainly a bit of a drawback to having him as a team’s lead guard.

To compare him to Russell, who posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.08 during the 2023-24 regular season, Young’s assist-to-turnover ratio clocked in at 2.48 this season. One can only wonder if that ratio would worsen if Young had to play off the ball more alongside a star like James.

For now, the Lakers have to be focused on this season’s playoff run, but it is interesting to wonder if they’ll pursue a star like Young in the offseason.

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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.