The Los Angeles Lakers are almost certain to need a new point guard this summer. Dennis Schroder never really fit in during his lone season in LA and he'll draw interest from around the league as an impending free agent. Speculation has turned to various big names the Lakers could bring in to replace him, but one should be completely ignored. Russell Westbrook is not the answer.
Rumors of Westbrook trade discussions between the Lakers and Washington Wizards hit the Internet on Wednesday and sent NBA Twitter into a frenzy. The thought of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook lining up together is tantalizing, but a deeper look into the combination and it makes absolutely no sense.
The Lakers' biggest deficiency during the 2020-21 season -- other than a healthy roster -- was a lack of 3-point shooting. Westbrook is a career 30.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc, and only hit 31.5 percent of his shots from deep this season. Yes, he's a triple-double machine, and finished the 2020-21 campaign averaging 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds, but that's not the kind of production the Lakers need.
Assuming James and Davis are healthy they will be the focal point of everything LA does on both ends of the court. Westbrook has to have the ball in his hands to make plays and, frankly, hasn't played well with other stars during his career. His pairings with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Bradley Beal have all fallen apart. He's simply not a guy who operates well off-the-ball, and he doesn't have the kind of background and experience that would lead James to defer to him.
The Lakers need a point guard who can either hit 3s or who James respects enough to defer to. There are a few guys available who fit that bill far better than Westbrook. Chris Paul is one, Lonzo Ball is another.
Paul and James have long been close friends, so LeBron would likely have no issue handing the keys to the offense over to his Banana Boat buddy at any point during a game. Additionally, Paul is a career 37.1 percent 3-point shooter and hit 39.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc for the Phoenix Suns this year. His ability to carve up the lane and step out and hit shots would be a big boost to the Lakers if they could convince him to come to LA.
Ball is another guy who would fit the Lakers. He's a vastly improved shooter from his time with the Lakers, having hit a career-best 37.8 percent from deep during the 2020-21 season. He loves LA and James seemed to have a great relationship with him when they played together. Ball's defensive ability and court-vision would serve the Lakers well. He'd also likely have no problem deferring to James and Davis who are clearly superior players. Additionally, Ball is only 23 years-old and making clear strides to improve every season.
The Lakers may not get Paul or Ball, but that's not the point. Adding Westbrook would be a rash move that would put them in salary cap hell for the next two years and likely cost them their only good young asset in Talen Horton-Tucker as part of the trade. And the upside is minimal given Westbrook's restrictions.
LA needs to nail its search for a point guard. James only has a few years left in the league and the team needs to find a primary ball-handler to take the pressure off him as he ages. Westbrook isn't that guy.