3 Things Russell Westbrook Must Do To Fit In With Los Angeles Lakers

Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

The start to the 2021-22 NBA season for the Los Angeles Lakers was expected to be a bumpy ride. The team has only three holdovers, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Talen Horton-Tucker, from last season’s team.

Even with a few players in Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, and Avery Bradley that were there during the 2019-20 season, there will be an adjustment period. The biggest adjustment will likely have to come from Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook was acquired in the biggest blockbuster of the offseason from the Washington Wizards. Los Angeles sacrificed a lot of depth to make it happen, sending Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the No. 22 overall pick to Washington to land him.

For his entire career, Westbrook has been either the No. 1 option or the 1B to a 1A. With the Lakers, he would clearly be the third option behind James and Davis. It will take some sacrifices from everyone to make it work.

All three players are used to having the ball in their hands a lot, but they will have to give up some touches this season. To fit in with his co-stars, Westbrook will likely have the most alterations to make.

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He will not have the ball in his hands as much as he has in the past. Every possession he is running things is one less possession James or Davis is. So, he will have to impact the game in different ways. One is an off-ball cutter.

Westbrook has done very little of this in his career, averaging just 29.4 off-ball cuts to the basket over the last five seasons. But, when he has done it, he has been very successful. Last season with the Wizards, he scored on an eye-popping 62.5 percent of his off-ball cuts to the basket. That is on par with his level of efficiency since 2016 for off-ball cuts.

Getting him to buy into that role would help him find a niche in the offense when all three superstars are sharing the court. The Brooklyn Nets found success using Bruce Brown in a similar fashion last season as a screener and cutter and are something the Lakers should look to for inspiration.

The one thing that the Lakers do not want to do is douse Westbrook’s competitive fire. That passion he brings to the court is something they could use more of.

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Even when things aren’t going as well as they had hoped, Westbrook needs to keep the energy up. His motor is always running on high and he should provide his teammates with an energy boost on nights they are feeling sluggish. If you see him playing hard and at a breakneck pace, they will follow suit.

Finally, the Los Angeles Lakers have to let Westbrook be Westbrook for portions of the game. Without LeBron James in the lineup the last two games against the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, Westbrook stuffed the stat sheet.

Finding minutes in-game in which Westbrook is the focal point of the attack will help the team win games. Since James has come to the Lakers, they have struggled mightily in winning the minutes that he is resting on the bench. Westbrook can be the solution for that.

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Even with Anthony Davis on the court without James, the Los Angeles Lakers were being outscored. Having another player capable of carrying the load as Westbrook is will put Frank Vogel at ease when he has to give James rest during the games.

Finding those moments to unleash Westbrook will come down to Vogel, but it will not always be easy. Coaching a team with three players of this caliber is a tall task, but the players seem dedicated to the cause.

The ultimate goal of winning an NBA Championship is what will drive Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis to make this work out as well as they can.