Since Kevin Durant bolted the Oklahoma City Thunder for greener pastures with the Golden State Warriors everyone has been wondering what will happen to Durant’s former running buddy, Russell Westbrook. Most of the speculation has centered around the Los Angeles Lakers sending several young players to the Thunder to get Westbrook. A trade like that would be a monumentally stupid move by the Lakers.
Most of the proposed trades I’ve seen around these here Internets the last few days have some combination of D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and/or Brandon Ingram sent to the Thunder in exchange for Westbrook. And the reasons given for a deals like those have usually been, “it makes sense,” “Westbrook is from Los Angeles,” “the Lakers need a superstar to take over for Kobe Bryant,” “the Lakers could offer him more money in free agency next year” and “the Lakers must compete now.” If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go ahead and blow apart all of that logic in the next few paragraphs.
-No, trading two to three young pieces for a guy heading into free agency doesn’t “make sense” for Los Angeles. The last time the Lakers sent a package of assets for a guy in the last year of his contract, his name was Dwight Howard and it didn’t end well. We don’t know what Westbrook is going to do next summer, but there is one guarantee: he’s going to hit free agency and hear pitches from multiple teams. He’d be stupid not to.
-Westbrook is from Los Angeles, but he’ll still be an LA native next summer when the Lakers can pitch him as a free agent. This reason is hilariously simplistic.
-The Lakers just drafted the guy who is going to take over the “superstar” mantle from Kobe, his name is Brandon Ingram, learn about him.
-Clearly being able to offer more money and years hasn’t had a huge impact on free agency this year. The only guy who took a max/max contract to stay with his current team this offseason was Mike Conley. The top two players available — Durant and Al Horford — went elsewhere.
-The Lakers aren’t going to win a title next year even if Westbrook is patrolling the court at Staples Center. Being slightly better at the expense of a bunch of cheap, young talent is incredibly short-sighted.
Yes, Westbrook needs to be a target for the Lakers. He’s an MVP-caliber guy who also happens to be a Los Angeles native. But the Lakers have an exciting young group of players who they should focus on adding to. They should allow Russell, Randle, Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. prove themselves. Los Angeles has already added veteran leadership with Luol Deng and given a big contract to Timofey Mozg–(sorry just threw up in my mouth a little) — it should let that group play and grow this year under young head coach Luke Walton.
For Lakers fans who desperately want Westbrook, what is a better scenario: having that young group and adding Westbrook to it next summer, or blowing that collection of talent apart to add Westbrook and not having anyone to surround him? The answer is pretty obvious.
Next summer the Lakers can offer Westbrook a max deal and if they decide they want to add another All-Star caliber guy, they could package a player or two and get “Beastbrook” someone to run with. There is zero point in jumping the gun now when Russ will be a free agent in just a few months anyway.
The “experts” claiming the Lakers should make a deal for Westbrook now are the same ones who said they were going to deal the No. 2 pick for an All-Star, or that they “had to” trade D’Angelo Russell after the embarrassing phone incident involving Nick Young. On all counts, those prognosticators were wrong, and they’re wrong now too.
If the Lakers surrender young assets to get a guy heading into the final year of his contract everyone in the front office should be fired immediately. Westbrook will be available in just a few months and there’s no reason to go after him now.