Will the Westbrook-Wall swap work? | The Manila Times
THE Los Angeles Lakers are a team stuck in the middle, literally. Hovering around the .500 mark, with each win or loss taking them above or below on a weekly basis in the 7th-9th seed range. Fans and bashers alike, however, agree the Lakers need to make a change, and the glaring scapegoat is Russell Westbrook.
There’s really no doubt that negotiating for Russ was a bad idea from the start. Westbrook was considered a regular-season driver at best and a playoff cancer at worst. It peaked in 2017 when he was left alone to operate in Oklahoma City with a shoulder chip. He averaged a triple-double and won the MVP award. But even then there were already naysayers.
The sharp decline
Westbrook continued to be the paradigm of the effort, but he also became the cautionary tale of misguided hustle. He showed that working hard is not necessarily working smart. With each season, with each trade, Westbrook’s play has slowly laid bare the reasons Kevin Durant flew to the Golden State Warriors in 2016.
Basketball is a game of rhythms and the best coaches know they have to find that rhythm, and also break the opposing team’s rhythm when they find it. Westbrook was a natural groove breaker. Many times the Lakers mount a run, either to split up, but mostly this season mounting a comeback after an early deficit, and Russ would take a pull-up three without any offensive rebounds, and the miss would swing the dynamic into the other direction.
Of course, Westbrook is still all over the pitch, and that’s why he gets his numbers. But the Lakers weren’t supposed to be in the middle of the pack, not with LeBron playing well this season.
The only possible trade for Westbrook could be John Wall from the Houston Rockets. Wall was traded for Chris Paul before, and it’s clear they’ve gone on different trajectories since then. Wall and Westbrook even have trade value, and now the Lakers are expected to add Talen Horton-Tucker and zombie Kris Nunn with a first-round pick for that same trade.
That’s how bad Westbrook was this season. Wall passed him in trade value because he didn’t play at all. Russ actually diminished his value by being on the pitch.
I’m not in favor of this trade because it’s another band-aid solution and the team would lose another young THT asset and a draft pick. But then you realize that by signing LeBron James, you give up any kind of planning for the future.
Wall for Westbrook can happen since Wall is a customer of Klutch Sports, and the Rockets would be willing to cooperate since Westbrook might be open for a buyout and Wall is not. The Rockets know they have the upper hand, and will milk the Lakers for any upside, which isn’t much.
But is replacing Westbrook with Wall worth paying the price for losing Horton-Tucker and their own 2027 draft pick? Why wouldn’t they just bench Westbrook? Buying out or benching Westbrook, when everyone knew LeBron James had vouched for him, would be an admission that the King was wrong.
That’s the problem with being the best league in the world. There is so much politics and public relations. As you can see, Lakers coach Frank Vogel benched Westbrook in the final minutes of the game against the Indiana Pacers, citing that he will be fielding players he thinks will win the game.
It’s exactly what a coach should do, but he faced a lot of criticism for it, especially since they didn’t win. Now talks are rife over Vogel’s dismissal. The trainer is consumable, of course. But do the Lakers have a real target that would be better than Vogel?
Anthony Davis is back from injury for the Lakers and now they wouldn’t have an excuse (even though almost every team has barely had a full roster all season). Resurrecting John Wall can either save the Lakers season or head straight for a brick wall.