Russell Westbrook is one of the greatest playmakers the NBA has ever had. Health permitting, he’ll end his career as one of the league’s top-10 all-time assist leaders. But the way Westbrook sets his teammates up can also lead to a lot of turnovers, as fans of the Los Angeles Lakers have seen this season.
Through seven games, Westbrook has turned the ball over 36 times, which is more than anyone in the NBA. Ten of those turnovers came in the Lakers’ 123-115 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, a contest in which they led by as much as 30 points. Two games before, he had a game with nine turnovers, but the Lakers were able to narrowly beat the Memphis Grizzlies 121-118 for their first win of the season.
Westbrook obviously has some work to do to cut down those turnovers, and he’s acknowledged that, but James also believes it’s on the rest of the team to make life easy on Westbrook as he gets settled into his new team.
“It’s all about progressing, and understanding the playmaker that you’re playing, understanding his court vision, his awareness,” James said after the Lakers’ 113-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
“I don’t think he gets enough credit for his passing ability, being able to see plays before they happen. And for me as a receiver, it’s my job to be in a position where the quarterback can just make the pass and I’ve got to go get it. Just running the lane with Russ, he’s usually out in front of the pack because of his pace and his intensity, but when you run with him, you get rewarded.”
Whether or not you believe James is giving Westbrook too much credit for his poor start to the season, it’s crucial that he learns to play with Westbrook and vice versa. Granted, when the team is at full strength, James and Westbrook are likely going to have their minutes staggered, but they’ll still start games together and it’s safe to assume they’ll close games together, too.
Is Westbrook the perfect fit with James or this team as a whole? Not exactly, but if everyone can get on the same page, there shouldn’t be questions about his fit; just who fits around him, James and Anthony Davis.