As you've no doubt heard by now, the Los Angeles Lakers are spiraling. They're struggling to stay in contention for the playoffs. They needed a 56-point outing from LeBron James over the weekend to keep themselves afloat with a win over the Golden State Warriors. Russell Westbrook hasn't played well all season and it's causing significant friction within the building. Things are not great!
Skip Bayless returned to Undisputed after a two-week vacation today to give his thoughts on the state of the Lakers. He chose Westbrook as his target and proclaimed that his play has gotten so bad that it's fair to say Austin Reaves, the undrafted rookie wing playing big minutes for LA, is a better all-around player.
This is, of course, insane. Reaves is better for the Lakers right now. He plays good defense, has the size to hang with anybody on that end of the court, and stays out of the way on offense so everybody else can operate. He is the prototype of the perfect LeBron teammate. The team needs Westbrook to play like Reaves, not the other way around.
That does not mean he is a better all-around player than Russell freaking Westbrook. Reaves is a better defender at this juncture and a more reliable shooter, but that's it. Put the ball in Reaves' hands at the same rate as Westbrook and it would spell disaster for everyone involved. Try to get Reaves to run the pick-and-roll like Westbrook and only bad things would happen.
I get that Westbrook's stock has fallen to a shocking degree this season. But he is not a worse player than Reaves. He is undoubtedly worse at the two most important parts of playing on a LeBron-led team (defense and three-point shooting), but you can't simplify that down to the overall skillset both players have to offer and then say Reaves is better. It doesn't work like that.
Westbrook hasn't been a net positive on the court this year. Reaves absolutely has. But better all-around player? That's an easy choice, even with Westbrook's play this year.