LeBron James and the New-Look Lakers Just Watched Their Worst Nightmare Come to Life Much Earlier Than Expected
LeBron James signed with the Lakers in 2018, but the team’s season has been a disaster. The Lakers have the second-worst record in the NBA and are currently on pace to win just 25 games this year.
The lakers 2021 is a blog post that discusses the Lakers’ rebuild. LeBron James and the team are in for a rough ride.
When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired star point guard Russell Westbrook this summer, it was all sunshine and flowers. The nine-time All-Star was supposed to be the last piece in LA’s championship jigsaw, but that didn’t seem to be the case Tuesday night.
Westbrook shot badly from the field in the Lakers’ season-opening defeat to the Golden State Warriors, and he didn’t seem to be at ease on the floor with LeBron James. It’s conceivable that LA’s greatest offseason bet could turn out to be their worst nightmare.
Russell Westbrook’s fit with the Lakers has been a source of controversy.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and Russell Westbrook watch a preseason basketball game against the Golden State Warriors | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
When Westbrook signed with the Lakers in the summer, many fans expected it to be the start of a dominating championship run. After all, James, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis are three of the NBA’s most unstoppable players at their positions.
Others, on the other hand, were more dubious. Westbrook has always been a ball-dominant point guard who relies on a high usage rate to have a significant offensive effect. When he’s the captain of the ship and surrounded by good shooters who can spread the floor and allow him room to operate, James thrives on offense.
When you put the two on the same floor, you have a worrying clash of styles.
It’s conceivable that skill will ultimately win out, but LeBron and Westbrook didn’t have a promising start on Tuesday night.
The Lakers and LeBron James are already seeing their worst fear come true.
During the Lakers’ season-opening game against the Warriors, fans were reminded of how their star free agency acquisition earned the moniker “Westbrick” in the first place.
Westbrook was 4-for-13 from the field and 0-for-4 from three in 35 minutes, and none of his 3-point tries looked like they had a chance of going in. He only had eight points, five rebounds, four assists, and four turnovers throughout the game. Not only did Westbrook struggle to shoot the ball, but he also failed to create for his teammates in the same manner he had in previous seasons.
This isn’t a coincidence.
Because of his lifetime usage rate of 32.4 percent, Westbrook has always been able to pile up points and assists despite his inefficient offensive style. According to StatMuse, this is the second-highest mark in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan. But what about Westbrook’s usage rate in his first season with the Lakers? Only 19.3 percent of the population.
Only by always having the ball in his hands and attacking the rim can Westbrook make his entire impact known on offense. With LeBron and Davis on the same floor right now, that’s not feasible.
Yes, it’s just one game, but this is an issue that won’t go away until something drastic is done.
Is benching Russell Westbrook for the Lakers a viable option?
Listen, I realize benching Westbrook seems ridiculous, and it’s unlikely to happen all season given he’s making more than $44 million this season, but bear with me for a while.
On Tuesday night’s episode of Inside the NBA, Charles Barkley alluded to the concept and offered some convincing arguments. On the floor, LeBron and Westbrook do not collaborate. They just do not. Why not let them each run their own show? They play their greatest basketball when they’re in charge.
Start James and add Malik Monk or Wayne Ellington to the lineup for an additional shooter to help spread the floor. Around with Davis and a couple shooters along the 3-point line, James will shine as a point guard. Do the same thing with Westbrook coming off the bench. Allow him to run his own team, complete with pick-and-rolls from Dwight Howard, spot-ups from Carmelo Anthony, and a rotation of shooters.
It doesn’t have to be a total benching, but head coach Frank Vogel should at least try various lineups to see whether Westbrook feels more at ease without James on the floor. With all of their depth, the Lakers might put up a well-oiled, two-unit machine similar to John Calipari’s platoon system at Kentucky in 2015.
Playing LeBron and Westbrook apart may be the only option unless they can miraculously alter their styles of play this late in their careers.
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