Two Realistic Russell Westbrook Trades

The Lakers made the biggest splash of the summer, bringing in nine-time All-Star and former MVP Russell Westbrook for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious, Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and an assortment of draft picks. The results have been mixed (to put it kindly), which has led many Lakers followers to dream up Brodie trade ideas.

Perhaps you’re a Westbrook fan, or maybe you’re one of the folks who’d love to see him anywhere but La La Land. Whichever way you lean on the former UCLA Bruin, the catch-all metrics paint an ugly picture of his play this season.

Here’s a breakdown:

Dunks and Threes’ estimated plus-minus metric rates Westbrook at -0.8, placing him in the 56th percentile.

Basketball Reference’s box plus/minus gives him a -1.0 mark, the lowest figure of his career since his rookie campaign.

Cleaning the Glass ranks Brodie in the 37th percentile in points per shot attempt at 102.7 per 100 possessions.

If the general analytics didn’t convince you, here are two key stats that show Westbrook’s problems this year.

1. Russell Westbrook is playing 35.8 minutes per game on the season but averages only 3.6 contested shots nightly. This means he only gets his hand up toward the ball for a challenge on defense a little over 3 ½ times per game. Compare his numbers to some of the other guards in his range (a tier below All-Star level).

  • CJ McCollum: 7.8 contested shots per game
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: 7.3 contested shots per game
  • Lonzo Ball: 6.8 contested shots per game
  • Jrue Holiday: 6.2 contested shots per game
  • Buddy Hield: 5.6 contested shots per game

Say what you want about Westbrook, but it’s clear he’s been dogging it on the less fun side of the ball, and it’s hard for a team like the Lakers with championship aspirations to march through the playoffs when their point guard isn’t giving 100% effort to stop his man.

2. Russell Westbrook is second in the league in turnovers at 4.6 per game.

You already know Westbrook is coughing the ball multiple times per contest. Still, his turnovers seem to be primarily unforced errors, not the result of double-teams or opposing squads game-planning against him. Again, the Purple and Gold, with LBJ and AD in the fold, have only one thing in mind this year, a title. It’s challenging to climb the mountain with a low IQ point guard who gives the opposing squad multiple freebies per game off needless giveaways.

Lakers management needs to at least consider dealing Russell Westbrook midseason based on his play, but with his massive salary and drop-off in production, it’s going to be tough to find a trade partner.

Two popular trade ideas are running through multiple Lakers’ chat streams that are the opposite of realistic; they are impossible.

Have a look:

The Philadelphia 76ers trade Ben Simmons and salary filler for Russell Westbrook

76ers, GM Daryl Morey, is the king of analytics. He was breaking down numbers in Houston well before the rest of the league caught on. He’s the last person in the world who would be enticed by Westbrook’s triple-doubles while ignoring his subpar advanced stats. No matter what type of mental issues Ben Simmons is going through over on the East Coast, and no matter how broken his long distance stroke has become, he’s a top-25 player because of his all-world defense, passing, and finishing ability at the rim. Morey will not trade an All-Star in Simmons for Westbrook, a guy who might not be in the top-75 and has one of the worst contracts in the league. It’s not happening.

The Indiana Pacers trade Myles Turner, Caris LeVert, and Jeremy Lamb for Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker

We human beings are amazing. We’re capable of an incredible amount of optimism one moment and then seconds later can simmer with negativity.

Lakers fans are a perfect example of this phenomenon. We can chuck our remote at our TV after an ugly loss and then minutes later concoct the most lopsided trades imaginable.

The Pacers would never trade a borderline All-Star in Myles Turner, one of the best wing defenders in the league, Caris LeVert (if you don’t believe me, check out his numbers or watch him play), and a bench sparkplug in Jeremy Lamb for Westbrook and THT. Brodie is an aging player with a declining skill set and ridiculous salary, and Horton-Tucker is averaging 10.4 PPG, 2.7 APG, and a 22.2% mark from beyond the arc. This deal would make the Pacers worse this year and next.

We need to be rational about what type of player (or players) Rob Pelinka can land for Brodie. We need to understand that as much as we want to see our hometown squad level up and bring in excellent players who will help improve our roster and push the Purple and Gold back toward the top, that will be nearly impossible through a Westbrook trade.The best we can hope for is an even deal that doesn't hurt LBJ and company.

Next, I’ll show the only two realistic Russell Westbrook trade options available for the Lakers.

Note: I left out any possible three or four-team trades because I didn’t want to spin down an ESPN Trade Machine rabbit hole for five hours. But there could be some multi-team Brodie deals out there that make sense for everyone involved.

The Cleveland Cavaliers trade Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio to the Lakers for Russell Westbrook

The young Cavaliers have been the surprise team in the league, racking up a 21-17 record, good for sixth place in the suddenly deep Eastern Conference. Cleveland has found success behind a massive frontline of Jarrett Allen, who has emerged as an All-Star candidate, Evan Mobley, the Rookie of the Year frontrunner, and Lauri Markkanen, the sweet-shooting big man from Finland. Darius Garland has also arisen as a fringe All-Star candidate leading the Cavs’ first unit with 19.7 PPG and 7.4 APG.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, Garland’s backcourt running mate, Collin Sexton, went down with a torn meniscus and will miss the rest of the year. Backup point guard Ricky Rubio suffered his own season-ending injury a few weeks later. Cleveland management pulled off a trade with the Lakers, landing Rajon Rondo to fill in for a Cavs team that is ahead of schedule and devoid of second unit playmakers.

Lakers fans don’t need me to preach about "Regular Season Rondo." He plays parking pylon defense and has some of the worst offensive metrics in the league. That’s where Russell Westbrook would step in. The former Bruin could fill an immediate need in Ohio, helping guide the second unit as a supped-up Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

Cleveland would hate to trade Ricky Rubio and his Bird Rights for next season, but Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has shown he’s a shrewd businessman above all else, and this would be an excellent cost-cutting move. The Cavs would ditch Rubio’s $17 million in dead money for Westbrook, a player who is only one year removed from helping guide the Wizards into the playoffs.

The Cavs would probably like to keep Kevin Love. He’s in shape again and pouring in 14.7 PPG in only 21.7 minutes while nailing 42.9% of his long distance bombs. Still, Cleveland has three younger and more athletic seven-footers in the starting lineup with Collins, Mobley, and Markkanen. And Westbrook would fill a massive need for a squad that wants to make some noise in the postseason for the first time since LeBron left for LA.

From the Lakers’ perspective, this trade would signify that dealing for Russell Westbrook over the summer was a giant mistake. The Purple and Gold would have to go back to a roster similar to the one they used to win the title two years ago in the bubble. LeBron James would serve as the only starting unit playmaker from one of the forward positions, and Avery Bradley and Malik Monk would provide shooting in the backcourt.

Kendrick Nunn would steady the ship with the second unit, and Kevin Love would serve as the Lakers’ backup center, providing rebounding and a solid scoring punch across 22 or so minutes per game.

In essence, this deal would be an addition by subtraction move. Rob Pelinka and LeBron James (the Lakers assistant GM) would be telling the league that they can’t win with Westbrook on the roster. Kevin Love will provide a little scoring punch, but with his lack of side-to-side agility and rim protection, he won’t move the needle much.

The Houston Rockets trade Eric Gordon, Christian Wood, Daniel Theis, and D.J. Augustin to the Lakers for Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, and Malik Monk

This deal would serve the Rockets in several ways.

Houston is tanking about as hard as we’ve seen since "The Process" was in full swing in Philadelphia. Eric Gordon, Christian Wood, and Daniel Theis probably don’t land inside the top-80 players in the NBA, but all three athletes are solid veterans who can actually do things to help the Rockets win. So, if the Rockets want to stay in the hunt for the worst record in the league, shipping off this trio would be a boon.

Kendrick Nunn is on a two-year deal with a player option for next season, and Malik Monk is on a one-year minimum contract. There’d be no guarantee either player would stay in Texas past this year. Still, the Rockets would own their Bird Rights and could throw some decent money at both men. Monk and Nunn are both in their early 20s and fit the Rockets timeline. It’s easy to see a starting trio of Nunn, Monk, and rookie Jalen Green turning into something special over the next few years.

Russell Westbrook and his giant ego would help sell tickets, which every ownership group in the NBA covets. It would be fascinating to watch Westbrook come off the bench as Rockets head coach Stephen Silas gives his young players ample time to develop on the court. Westbrook would become a nightly spectacle. He’d probably have his own segment on ESPN entitled "Look What Brodie Did During His 15 Minutes Of Playing Time."

12 turnovers in 15 minutes.

32 points in 15 minutes.

An 0 for 10 shooting night before getting hit with two technicals.

Anything would be possible, and the entire country would tune in to see Brodie play his second stint for the Rockets.

Or else Houston could buy him out, take the massive cap hit for one and a half seasons, and bottom out next year as well.

The Lakers would loathe to offer Malik Monk, especially after watching the growing synergy between him and LBJ in the starting lineup. The Purple and Gold would also hate to let Kendrick Nunn go. We haven’t seen him play in LA yet, but he’s a solid point guard who started for the Miami Heat in the playoffs last season.

Monk and Nunn are the price of doing business with the Rockets because they will not take on Westbrook and his $40 million-plus salary for nothing.

I haven’t mentioned D.J. Augustin, but I’ll start with the Texas native because if the Lakers pulled off this deal, he’d be the only legitimate point guard on the squad, which is a problem. Augustin clocks in at 5-11, 183 pounds, making him one of the smallest players in the league. He’s also 34-years-old, incapable of guarding a D-2 PG, and he’s signed through 2023 at $7 million per year. Augustin’s contract is a disaster. A title contender like the Lakers can’t give a player like Augustin minutes.

Once again, that’s the price of doing business. The Purple and Gold would have to buy out the former Hornet and scour the market for a backup playmaking guard.

The benefits of this trade for the Lakers are easy to see. They’d get a solid starting center in Christian Wood, a legitimate backup big man in Daniel Theis, and a long distance assassin in Eric Gordon who’d help spread the floor for LBJ and AD.

Christian Wood is shooting a decent 33.7% from deep, and he’s a fair rim runner. He’s a bit on the thin side and would have trouble guarding some of the bigger centers in the Western Conference like Nikola Jokic, Deandre Ayton, and Rudy Gobert. Still, he’s a considerable upgrade over current Lakers big men Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.

Daniel Theis isn’t flashy, but he can be counted on to play good position defense, work the offensive glass, and move his feet off switches on the perimeter. He’s an excellent backup big man.

Eric Gordon is one of the best three-point shooters in the league this season, with a 45.6% hit rate from deep. He can also drive into the lane for the occasional layup, and he’s a decent playmaker when he needs to be. Gordon would be a perfect fit next to LeBron, helping spread the floor for the GOAT.