The Lakers want to trade Russell Westbrook. They would never and will never say that publicly, for obvious reasons, but you would be hard pressed to find anyone with any credibility that would suggest otherwise.
Jovan Buha of The Athletic believes it’s going to happen. He’s not reporting it, it’s just his opinion, but Buha recently stated on the Late Night Lake Show podcast that he believes the Lakers, who have consistently postured their unwillingness to give up two first-round draft picks to get off Westbrook, will ultimately send out the two future firsts (2027 and 2029) in a deal with Brooklyn to bring back a Kyrie Irving package that would also likely include one of Joe Harris, Seth Curry or Royce O’Neale.
The Lakers could also look harder into sending Westbrook and the two future picks to Indiana for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. Buha believes the Lakers would be more reluctant to do that deal, but as training camp and the season nears, the urgency to get away from Westbrook and put a team on the floor that can give LeBron James a chance to compete will only increase.
Until a deal actually happens, however, the Lakers have to plan as though Westbrook will be back, and here’s where this gets really dire. Desperate to find any sort of role in which Westbrook, a historically bad shooter who needs and wants the ball on a team with LeBron James, can be a useful player, or at least not an actively harmful one, Yahoo Sports’ NBA insider Chris Haynes is saying the Lakers are “hopeful for a corner-3 shooting percentage bump from Russell Westbrook next season.”
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It’s not the first time we’ve heard this. New Lakers coach Darvin Ham said a few weeks back that he wants Westbrook to take more corner 3-pointers than he’s ever taken in his career.
Again, this is the height of desperation. This is a team looking for anywhere to hide a guy, and the corner is the last place before the bench. Now it’s here where we have to point out that Westbrook actually shot 44 percent on corner 3s last season and 41 percent in 2020-21, per Cleaning the Glass. If you’re equating those numbers to the idea that Westbrook can be some kind of corner-3 shooter for real, you’re as desperate as the Lakers.
Last season, just four percent of Westbrook’s 3s came from the corner. In 2020-21, it was two percent, per CTG. If you don’t look at volume with these kinds of statistics, you don’t know what you’re doing. Now, with some shooters, there might be a reason to believe the percentages are a real thing and a volume uptick will further unlock a hidden talent. There is no hidden shooting talent in Russell Westbrook.
But hey, perhaps it can be the lesser of many evils. How much harm can Westbrook do bricking four or five corner 3s a night? Would Westbrook even commit to the role in the first place? It’s hard to imagine. All of this seems moot. I agree with Buha in that the Lakers will eventually cave and trade the two first along with Westbrook to put a team with honest aspirations to contend on the floor. Until then, this will be the kind of stuff we hear about, like Russ is going to cut more or give the Lakers a transition force or be the guy who can relieve playmaking pressure from LeBron.
How’s all that working out?