Nick Wright: If the Lakers Won't Trade Russell Westbrook, They Should Trade LeBron James

Nick Wright
Nick Wright /

For the first time since maybe 2006 there has been a whole lot of "trade LeBron James" talk going on in the NBA discussion circles. Normally, trading LeBron is such an unfathomably far-fetched idea that not even the bravest of the sports shouters on television will venture there. But the Los Angeles Lakers have painted themselves into such a corner that trading The King is not only a path open to them, but one that many are willing to argue is the best path to take.

It's all a product of Russell Westbrook, of course. The team sacrificed all their flexibility to bring him aboard last season and he was awful beyond comprehension. Now the same decision-makers who traded for him are more interested in trying to make it work (again) instead of doing whatever it takes to get him off the roster. It seems that the Lakers would happily trade him if someone wanted him, but not if they have to give up their next available draft pick in 2027. It's a sticking point that baffles everybody outside the building, who don't need a degree in knowing ball to understand that the Lakers are far better without Westbrook. Refusing to improve the team in order to keep draft flexibility in five years is not exactly the Laker MO.

Nick Wright talked about it on First Things First this morning and said if the Lakers won't trade Westbrook they might as well just trade LeBron.

It does appear to border on delusional that Los Angeles is so confident keeping Westbrook will work. Even on his good nights last year, when he didn't turn the ball over a half-dozen times and shoot a single-digit percentage from the floor, he didn't fit well with LeBron and Anthony Davis. The trickle-down effect of exchanging Westbrook for players who can hit a middling percentage of their three-point attempts and are willing to at least try on defense is the difference between a low playoff seed and missing the playoffs entirely. Yet Los Angeles wants to hang onto that 2027 pick!

As I've written several times, LeBron isn't going to get traded. We aren't playing 2K out here. But Wright's larger point is correct. The franchise is fooling itself if anybody in the building thinks keeping Westbrook means a championship. Sure, they could be better next season with new head coach Darvin Ham and some improved injury luck. But in the very few instances we can look at last year where the Lakers were at their best featuring a healthy Big 3, there was no championship-level defense or offense.

And championships are the standard for both LeBron and the Lakers. Nobody will care if the Lakers end up being right that Westbrook can work and manage to get a five-seed in next year's postseason before losing in the second round. It remains puzzling the Lakers think they can be better than that while refusing to do what it takes to improve the roster right now at the expense of the future.

But they are the Lakers. They'll figure it out. Right?