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Could Russell Westbrook and the Lakers benefit from a move to the bench?

It was nicely documented that Russell Westbrook struggled with the Lakers final season. 

It performed a big function — together with accidents and a poorly constructed roster — within the Lakers lacking the playoffs, and it is a huge purpose why the staff is working to amass Kyrie Irving earlier than the beginning of the season.

But when Los Angeles does go into the 2022-23 season with Westbrook on the roster, what is going to his leash seem like in comparison with final 12 months?

Based on The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, not very lengthy.

In a Lakers’ mailbag the place Buha answered questions from followers on Twitter, he famous that new head coach Darvin Ham can have way more say over the staff’s lineups.

“Lakers head coach Darvin Ham can have extra energy to bench Westbrook down the stretch of video games, in line with league sources, (Former head coach Frank Vogel did so a number of instances final season),” Buha wrote. “That would finally prolong to eradicating Westbrook from the beginning lineup as nicely.”

If Westbrook will get out to a different sluggish begin, might he and the Lakers profit from a transfer to the bench?

Let’s break it down.

How did Westbrook play with out LeBron James and Anthony Davis?

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook performed in 5 video games final season with out James or Davis obtainable.

On one hand, these video games look actually good from a person manufacturing standpoint for Westbrook. Alternatively, the Lakers went winless in these 5 video games.

  • Jan. 28 at CHA: 35 PTS, 4 REB, 5 AST, 12-23 FG, 3-7 3PT, 8-10 FT in a loss
  • March 7 at SAS: 17 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST, 5-14 FG, 0-2 3PT, 7-13 FT in a loss
  • March 23 vs. PHI: 24 PTS, 9 REB, 8 AST, 10-20 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-5 FT in a loss
  • March 29 at DAL: 25 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST, 9-17 FG, 1-5 3PT, 6-6 FT in a loss
  • March 31 at UTA: 24 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST, 9-18 FG, 0-2 3PT, 6-10 FT in a loss

To be truthful, that Lakers roster was unhealthy as is final 12 months, by no means thoughts with out James or Davis. So it is arduous to solely place these losses on Westbrook’s shoulders. Moreover, the star guard averaged 25.0 factors, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists whereas capturing 48.9 p.c from the sphere in these contests.

MORE: LeBron James contract extension: Why Aug. 4 is vital date for Lakers celebrity

That, alone, might make a case for him being extra productive off the bench, though he’d be in a restricted function in comparison with being the featured participant in these 5 video games.

How would coming off the bench go well with Westbrook’s play?

Since his rookie season, Westbrook has by no means come off the bench within the NBA. He began in 65 out of 82 video games as a rookie and the previous MVP has began in each single sport of his profession since then.

It is secure to say coming off the bench can be fairly the adjustment for Westbrook, who has been a starter, presumably, his complete life.

However that is to not say it could not go well with his play with this staff at this stage of his profession.

MORE: How a lot does Westbrook have left within the tank?

There have been at all times questions as to how two gamers as ball-dominant as James and Westbrook would mesh. A transfer to the bench would imply Westbrook can take the keys to the second unit and run the present. There can be extra shot makes an attempt obtainable, he’d get to function the offense, and with the Lakers’ extra athletic offseason additions, he would be capable to push the tempo with guys like Lonnie Walker IV, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Stanley Johnson.

The most important drawback — which exists throughout the roster, not simply on the second unit — is that there is not lots of capturing round Westbrook. As a non-shooter himself, defenses would be capable to pack the paint towards a Westbrook-led bench mob, which might doubtless end in some very ugly offensive possessions.

But when head coach Ham feels Westbrook is best fitted to a Sixth Man-type function, he ought to see a silver lining in having extra alternatives to do the issues he likes to do with the ball in his fingers on each possession.

Would Westbrook be OK with coming off the bench?


All indicators level to… no.

Again in January, when former head coach Vogel elected to bench Westbrook down the house stretch of a sport, the previous MVP let his opinion heard on the choice.

“Shocked, sure. I used to be upset I did not return in, however I am extra upset that we misplaced the rattling sport,” Westbrook instructed reporters, in line with ESPN.

“I need to have the ability to be on the ground to assist my teammates and be capable to assist our staff win in video games like that — however that was a choice that was made.”

Later within the season, ESPN additionally reported there was an “rising push amongst many within the Lakers group” to demote Westbrook from the beginning lineup, however Vogel was proof against bringing Westbrook off the bench.

There have been extra rumblings of Westbrook expressing displeasure of the thought of coming off the bench at new head coach Ham’s press convention again in June, too.

The star guard was in attendance for the press convention and The Athletic’s Invoice Oram had an attention-grabbing nugget that was solely seen by these in attendance.

“When Ham was requested whether or not he had mentioned a possible function change with Westbrook, together with the potential for him coming off the bench, Westbrook, who had been expressionless via many of the proceedings, couldn’t preserve himself from frowning, then laughing,” Oram wrote.

None of these issues add as much as Westbrook being OK with a demotion, however perhaps Ham can persuade the nine-time All-Star to place the staff first if it involves that.

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