Updated: Aug 17, 2021
The Los Angeles Lakers are rolling the dice with the final years of LeBron James. In a perimeter-oriented league, Rob Pelinka and Lakers brass decided to surround "King James" with an oft-injured big man and a grossly inefficient point guard. After months of talk about trading for Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard, the 2020 NBA Finals champions settled in on Russell Westbrook. (I concede that trading for Beal or Lillard would’ve been much more difficult, but I digress.) Today’s NBA is an analytics-driven league with a focus on efficiency, perimeter shooting, and player health. Trading for Westbrook is a slap in the face to all of that. He’s entering his age-33 season. His best days are behind him. His balls-to-the-wall playing style won’t age well. Once he loses a step, his shooting woes will only get exacerbated. Westbrook can’t shoot threes to save his life. He’s a ball-centric player, who clogs the paint. Once his athleticism takes a dip, so will his overall play. The 2017 NBA MVP also makes floor spacing an issue. Anthony Davis, when healthy, is not a perimeter-oriented player. James will be the only three point shooting threat among the three highest-paid Lakers. In a league full of perimeter scorers, LeBron won’t be playing with any. As injuries mount for the 4-time NBA Finals champion, James is going to need to rely on his sidekicks more than ever. The problem is, Davis and Westbrook aren’t reliable. Davis has already proven he can’t stay healthy. He’s Charmin Ultra Soft. The bubble was a godsend for the Lakers. Don’t expect Davis to get a multi-month break before the playoffs ever again. He’s as fragile as they come. Everyone knows Westbrook’s playing style doesn’t translate to winning basketball. The purple-and-gold don’t have an elite supporting cast like the Milwaukee Bucks did this year or the Toronto Raptors from a couple of seasons ago. The championship window for LeBron James is getting smaller and smaller by the day, and Pelinka is pushing the window shut with the addition of Russell Westbrook. Let’s just say that I’m skeptical of the contrarian style of Pelinka’s front office. James needs healthy perimeter scoring threats. Not aging, inefficient, stat-padding ball hogs.