As you might have heard, Kevin Durant is going to join the 73 win Golden State Warriors and not the Los Angeles Lakers (Shocking, I KNOW). This would be like getting all the five cards of Exodia but in basketball form. Imagine Daenerys Targaryen getting help from the Lannisters to take the Seven Kingdoms. It is a lot to process, and the decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder has lead to many questions about what the organization should do about his long time teammate, Russell Westbrook. Should they keep him and ride him out for a year until he’s a free agent? Should they trade him and try to get some pieces for a rebuild? Should they try to bolster their team in hopes he stays? Twitter was ablaze with suggestions, but here were two tweets that caught my eye, and there is a common denominator here:
Something that has to be considered now: a Lakers push for Westbrook via trade. Russell & Ingram for Westbrook makes sense for both sides.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) July 4, 2016
— Vincent Bonsignore (@DailyNewsVinny) July 4, 2016
The Los Angeles Lakers.
Some background: Russell Westbrook is from Los Angeles. That’s really all there is that connects him to that them. Westbrook played college ball at UCLA ,and they just so happen to be a few freeways away from Staples Center. As jubilant as Laker fans are about this idea, I personally think it’s a terrible. Why would you threaten the promise of a future for a year of Russell Westbrook without any sort of guarantee that he will sign with the Lakers after he becomes a free agent?
Of course, there is no telling if the likes of D’Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram become as good as Russell Westbrook. They probably won’t, which is not a knock on them, it’s just….Westbrook is incredible. He’s an absolute machine. He had his face dented in and carried on playing the next game with a face mask like it was nothing. He can rack up assists, get to the basket, and impact the game like few can in the NBA.
And the Lakers still should not trade for him. Their young pieces are too important to try and gut the rebuild to add Westbrook. Let’s say the Lakers trade Randle and Ingram. They now have a glaring lack of depth at the SF and PF spots to add another guard. Substitute D’Angelo Russell for one of those players and you give away the player with arguably the most potential on the squad. Remember the Knicks giving up a lot for Carmelo back in 2011? This feels a bit similar to it, although the situation is a bit different. It’s Westbrook’s last year under contract and if he leaves, the Lakers are back to how they were in the summer of 2013.
I spoke about it in a previous post, let the young guys develop and see if their play makes Los Angeles a free agent destination again. IF the goal is to be appealing to players, the logical (this is not the quickest or easiest) decision is to see how this team does under Luke Walton. Luke Walton is poised to establish a sort of system which resembles Golden State’s. This bides well with the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and company. If their level of play can elevate year after year, players will take notice and want to don the purple and gold. Once again, this is a very big IF. This is a team with three lottery picks in the starting lineup and the organization hopes that their talent is worth the high draft pick.
A year from now when free agency begins in the summer of 2017 (after the Warriors go 80-2 and 16-0 in the playoffs) and Westbrook is available, there is no telling if the Lakers will be good. I’m expecting them to show the potential given a good coach and the right situations. With this sort of potential in play, it would be a great asset to include in a pitch to bring about a marquee free agent like Russell Westbrook. That asset will be realized when this teams shows they can compete and their players are worth playing with.
For now, I’d love for the Lakers to focus on what they have now and being able to build something substantial with the pieces in place. The Lakers have been known for big trades in the past (Steve Nash, I’m so sorry things did not work out), but here is hoping the organization has the patience to let the kids make a name for themselves in the spotlight first.