On Russell Westbrook


Russ to the Lakers was never going to work, and I want to explain why and the implications going forward.

On Russell Westbrook

In late July 2021, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and a first-round pick. Long before the Russ joined the Lakers, I pledged to not support my home-town team should he ever be on the squad. My worst nightmare happened, and I could only hope that Lebron could guide Russ. This was never going to work, and I want to explain why and the implications going forward.

Not a Winner

I previously wrote that the 2020 Rockets had zero chance to win a title. Russ was an enormous reason for this drastic evaluation. He consistently shoots his team out of games, turns the ball over, and this season, started missing a ton of layups.

Empty Stats

What good is a triple-double if your team loses the game? Despite a decent winning percentage when recording a triple-double, I feel that chasing rebounds and stats cost his team a lot. The MVP is supposed to go to the best player on the best team. Yet in his MVP season, Russell was bounced quickly in the first round. Every shot outside of the protected area is essentially a turnover, despite what the statisticians report… In fact, hindsight has proven that he had no business winning that MVP award (duh). To me, this is such a travesty that I want every voter who voted for him to publicly apologize or lose their vote going forward.


Start, Bench, Cut

Speaking of an unwarranted MVP award, I wantto spin a sports-Twitter classic. The game normally consists of three players, in which you are to pick which player to start, which to bench, and which to cut. Essentially, you’re ranking the players 1–3. In this version, we’ll be ranking three of Westbrook’s accolades from most to least deserved: 2017 MVP, NBA 75th Anniversary Team, Hall of Fame.

Start: Hall of Fame. Russ is easily the best athlete in the NBA. He’s certainly also one of the least skilled at the game of basketball itself. But his impact on the game is undeniable (despite my disagreeing with his antics), and he deserves to make the HoF as a result of his pure athletic ability, despite underachieving on the basketball court for his god-given abilities.

Bench: 2017 MVP. Russ is completely undeserving of this accolade. The media, fans, and voters fell in love with the triple-double, despite the Thunder being a terrible team and ultimately making a quick first-round exit. I know, I know, the MVP is a regular season award, but the award shouldn’t look awful in hindsight. Only, it was awful at the time. He led the league in turnovers (literally, the worst thing one can do with the ball) and was the “best” player on an average team. Oh, don’t forget he was only an average shooter (his best shooting year…) and regularly stole rebounds to pad stats.

Cut: NBA 75 Team. This list is capped at 75 players, unlike the MVP or HoF. Thus, it is the most elusive of the three, and therefore the one Russ deserves the least. The guy can’t shoot, yet continues to do so, despite all evidence to the contrary. This year, he added missing open layups to his arsenal. The Lakers benched him in key 4th quarter and OT minutes this season. Tell me how a player of all three of this alleged caliber is unplayable in crunch time. Simply, because he is undeserving of the awards and credits given.



The above clip has occurred multiple times this season. The guy is a terrible shooter, yet continues to believe otherwise. Apparently not even Lebron could set him straight. Hell, in the bubble season (2020), when the Lakers played Houston, the Lakers famously guarded him by giving him tons of space beyond the 3-point line. This now famous meme begs the question: How the hell did the Lakers think this would be the solution to their problems? They knew he couldn’t shoot, we all did (and still do) except for Russ. And apparently egos matter, since he keeps shooting.

Several times this year, Russ has lashed back at the idea of being nicknamed “Westbrick.” Sure, it is playful, but also hurtful. But similar to pitchers in baseball complaining about batters show boating home runs (in which the solution is to not give up a home run), the solution here would be for Westbrick to shoot better, or at the very least, more efficiently (or improve his overall efficiency). These shots off the side of the backboard, and anything beyond a layup is, for all intents and purposes, a turnover.

So predictable.

Russ is the most athletic player, perhaps ever. Someone needed to tell him 10 years ago (or now, it isn’t too late) that EVERY possession, he needs to drive to the basket and get a layup/dunk, or pass the rock out to a shooter. I know what you’re thinking: that won’t work if the defense knows he’s going to do it. I see you’re point, but the difference is that Russ is SO much more athletic than the defense that he will be able to do it. I compare it to Arjen Robben (FC Bayern / KNVB) in which everyone in the arena knew Robben would cut to his left from ~15 yards away and shoot with his same foot. And guess what? It worked so well and Robben was an elite goal scorer for many years. This is exactly what Russ should have been doing his whole career and should be doing now.

Destroyer of Lakers and Lebron


The Lakers gave up a ton of assets to get Westbrook. Hindsight is 20/20, but anyone with any basketball sense knew this was not a good trade. The Lakers lost good assets and role-players, and hindered their ability to trade in the future by losing draft picks and young assets.

They could have traded for Buddy Hield. Or DeMar DeRozan. A Lakers team with either of those players is cruising into a top-3 seed in the Western Conference this season. Instead, they allowed this to predictably blow up in their faces, and floated the idea of trading Russ for John Wall just before the trade deadline. I’d love to have Wall over Russ. Hell, give me Ben Simmons over Russ. At least Ben is smart enough to not shoot. Emotional Lakers fans hate on Dennis Schroeder, but again, literally anyone is an upgrade over net-negative Westbrick. Acquiring Westbrook hurt the Lakers for years to come.

They should’ve known…

Most importantly, Russ has destroyed Lebron’s twilight. Lebron was supposed to wind down and pass the torch to AD and a bunch of solid role players. Instead, he’s over-exerting himself so that the squad can make it to the play-in game. Part of that is AD’s constant injury, but who knows what happens if Russ is more self-aware or the Lakers have a third “star” that knows his role within the hierarchy and is even willing to come off the bench to lead the second unit while Bron gets some much needed rest. Unfortunately, as a huge Lebron fan, I think that signing off on the Westbrook deal, even perhaps pushing for it, is a bigger stain on his legacy than the 2011 NBA finals meltdown against the Dallas Mavericks. Yikes.

In short, Russell Westbrook has been predictively terrible as a Laker, and was terrible for many years before that for his respective team(s). The NBA is a star-driven league. Superstars go to new teams in free agency. Why wasn’t it a red flag to the Lakers like it was to the rest of the league that Russ had been traded so many times?