How the Lakers can salvage their season

Published November 9, 2022, 8:00 AMWillie Wilson
Willie Wilson

NBA.com Philippines’ All-Star Analyst Willie Wilson weighs in on how the Lakers can improve moving forward.

The LA Lakers are currently 2-8, only ahead of the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, both of whom are rebuilding teams. I’ve watched them lose at full strength, without Russell Westbrook, and with Westbrook coming off the bench. I know the season just started out, but they already have last season for reference, so why would this season be any different?

I can focus on all the reasons this Lakers team just doesn’t work, like Westbrook being washed, even though Coach Darvin Ham tried to convince us otherwise. There’s also enough shooters on the team as LeBron James put it bluntly. James and Anthony Davis are averaging a combined 46 points per game. Unfortunately, the rest of the players in the rotation are shooting a very inefficient 37 percent from the floor, and the team as a whole is shooting 28 perent from behind the arc.

Entering their eighth game of the season against the Utah Jazz, the Lakers were riding a two-game winning streak. During that stretch, Westbrook has been coming off the bench and he was showing tremendous professionalism. As he should, because that is what he is being paid more than 47 million to be: a professional. As a professional basketball player, you aren’t supposed to be applauded for working hard, or providing energy on the court, or even supporting the success of your teammates. All of those things should be a given. 

So I find it weird when I hear Westbrook being applauded for accepting the bench role, or for bringing energy off the bench. He should be doing whatever’s needed from him in order to help the team get wins. 

The fact still stands that the Lakers with King James and the Brow are good enough to win. That was obvious during the end of their second win against the New Orleans Pelicans. James and Davis carried the team in the final moments of regulation and during the extra period. You know who wasn’t on the floor during that stretch? Westbrook.

We know the problem. Now we get to the solution. The Lakers need to make a trade. The report early in the season is that the team wants to wait 20 to 25 games to evaluate the roster thoroughly. Nine games into the season, it’s obvious. The roster just doesn’t work, and to delay making a trade can potentially kill any chances of having a positive season. 

The trade that’s been talked about since the preseason and my personal favorite is the one where the Indiana Pacers send Myles Turner and Buddy Hield to the Lakers for Westbrook and two unprotected first round picks. Turner and Hield would fit perfectly next to James and Davis. The two would drastically improve the spacing of the Lakers, as they would be the fourth and fifth best 3-point shooters on the team in terms of efficiency if traded.

Turner will help the league’s second-ranked defense based on defensive rating with his rim protection averaging 3.5 blocks per game this early in the season. He’s also a floor spacer shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc for his career. Hield is one of the best shooters in the NBA and he’s currently shooting 42 percent from behind the arc, hitting four treys per game.

James is still very good in his 20th season in the league, while Davis is a top talent in the league when healthy. Having them both playing at their peak, surrounded by the right players, has already brought the team one championship. It's not too much to expect another one if management can fix the issues with the roster. As good as he’s been playing recently, Westbrook needs to go if the Lakers hope to salvage their awful start to this season.

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