Russell Westbrook’s first season in L.A. was an unmitigated failure. He was plugged right into a lineup of non-shooters together with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a complicated mixture of ill-fitting items. Of Rob Pelinka’s misfit toys, although, no person took final season’s debacle more durable on the chin than Westbrook.
Westbrook’s inaugural marketing campaign in L.A. resulted in his worst single-season capturing averages since his growing years as a professional. He made a decrease share of two-pointers than he had in a decade, noticed his vaunted help and rebounding tallies per recreation dip beneath the double-digit averages he’d gotten used to since 2015, and he posted his worst participant effectivity ranking since he was a rookie.
It was particularly jarring for a unstable level guard who had been on the transfer for the previous three years via quite a lot of trades. As a quickly devalued commodity whose pogo-stick athleticism was certain to say no as he entered mid-30s, groups have performed scorching potato with Westbrook for 3 years. The important thing has been to not get caught with a max-contract participant with questionable decision-making and no residual commerce worth. Westbrook’s inventory plummeted and L.A. bought scorching holding the bag. Issues bought so unhealthy that he discovered himself being disrespected as “Westbrick.”
Westbrook’s downward development continued early on this yr, within the Lakers’ first 4 video games. The staff tripped out of the gates, going 0-4, and the Westbrick phenomenon reached its nadir with an 0-for-11 capturing efficiency in opposition to the Clippers.
Since getting relegated to the bench by Darvin Ham, Westbrook has flourished. Within the first 4 video games of the season, Westbrook’s shot choice and the discharge on his jumper wanted an exorcism.
He tallied 10.3 factors, and 4.3 assists whereas capturing underneath 8.3 % on 3-balls and drained 29 % from the sector. Granted that small pattern measurement was influenced by Westbrook heaving gutterballs towards the cylinder in opposition to the Clippers, however it’s protected to say not a lot had modified within the offseason to anticipate something higher from Westbrook. Enjoying off-ball in lineups with LeBron James, Westbrook was an anchor on the Lakers offense.
Since getting moved to the bench, Westbrook’s utilization has jumped 7 factors from 21.5 to twenty-eight.5. He has upped his subject aim share to 47 %, is remarkably capturing 45 % from 3-point vary, scoring 19 factors an evening whereas dishing practically 8 assists per recreation, and has a brand new lease on his stint in L.A.
Unsurprisingly, it seems that letting Westbrook function in opposition to backups and in lineups with out James. The offense revolves extra naturally on its meant axis when Westbrook operates individually from LeBron’s gravitational pull.
Three of the Lakers finest lineups this season in relation to plus-minus scoring differential function Westbrook and Davis (plus Austin Reaves) on the ground with out LeBron James. These lineups have outscored groups by 35 factors this season. Westbrook is the one who will get to function within the pick-and-rolls with Davis. He’s the one who dominates the rock and initiates the offense. His bravado has returned even when the Lakers are nonetheless drowning within the standings.
Satirically, L.A. was thought of the vacation spot for Kyrie Irving within the offseason. Whereas wholesome and centered on basketball as a substitute of his Amazon Prime account, Irving is the vastly superior level guard. Nevertheless, Westbrook is doing sufficient proper now to maintain his commerce worth afloat whereas Irving has grow to be Brooklyn’s albatross. Lengthy-term, Westbrook received’t be a Laker. He’ll doubtless be whisked out of city by the commerce deadline, however no less than he’s revived the depressed marketplace for his abilities.