ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith issued a positive message surrounding Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers have yet to move on from Westbrook in a trade this offseason, and it appears to be more and more likely that he will be with the team at the start of the 2022-23 regular season.
While Smith doesn’t believe that Westbrook will help the Lakers win a title if he stays, he does believe the former MVP will improve in the 2022-23 season.
“I definitely believe that if Russell Westbrook ends up staying in Los Angeles, as opposed to say, somewhere like Indiana for Myles Turner or Buddy Hield, a couple of picks, which to me is still possible,” Smith said. “I know they haven’t offered it, or anything like that, but if that offer comes down the pike, I think you’ll see the Lakers take that offer.
“If that doesn’t happen and he ends up staying a Los Angeles Laker, I definitely believe this season will be better than the last. I don’t believe that Russell Westbrook will ever be this bad again.”
Smith pointed out that Westbrook and former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel were unable to get on the same page last season. Things could change for the Lakers in the 2022-23 campaign, as new head coach Darvin Ham will have the opportunity to find a role that Westbrook can thrive in.
The nine-time All-Star finished the 2021-22 season averaging 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.
Westbrook is expected to make north of $47 million on his player option next season, and it doesn’t seem like the Lakers will be able to get quality talent back for him unless they are willing to trade their first-round picks in the 2027 and 2029 NBA Drafts.
The Lakers have added a ton of guard depth this offseason by trading for Patrick Beverley and signing Lonnie Walker IV and Dennis Schroder.
Los Angeles certainly hopes that Smith is right and Westbrook plays better in the 2022-23 season if he remains with the team.