After suffering a first-round playoff exit last year, the Los Angeles Lakers became more aggressive in improving their roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the 2021 NBA offseason. The Lakers successfully found a third star a week before the 2021 NBA Draft when they acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards. After forming their own "Big Three" of Westbrook, James, and Davis, the Lakers immediately became one of the heavy favorites to fully dominate the Western Conference and capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the 2021-22 NBA season.
NBA Rumors: LeBron James, Anthony Davis 'Encouraged' LA Lakers To Trade For Russell Westbrook Instead Of Buddy Hield
NBA Rumors: Rockets Could Send Christian Wood To Warriors For James Wiseman, Moses Moody & No. 28 Pick
Russell Westbrook Experiment A Massive Failure
Unfortunately, things didn't go as the Lakers expected this season. As of now, their newest addition, Westbrook, is yet to live up to expectations from the Lakers' third star. Aside from his inconsistent performance on both ends of the floor, he's noticeably struggling to make himself fit alongside James and Davis in Los Angeles.
With their chemistry issues and inability to remain healthy, it's hardly surprising that the Lakers are currently out of the playoff race. Despite having the "Big 3" of Westbrook, James, and Davis, the Lakers are only sitting in the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference with a 24-24 record.
Lakers Chose Russell Westbrook Over Buddy Hield
Before they engaged in a blockbuster deal with the Wizards, the Lakers were also aggressively pursuing other players on the trade market, including veteran shooting guard Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings. Earlier in the 2021 NBA offseason, there were speculations that the Lakers and the Kings were in a serious negotiation involving Hield. However, when the Wizards started listening to offers for Westbrook, NBA insider Marc Stein revealed in his substack newsletter that James and Davis "encouraged" the Lakers' front office to trade for "The Brodie" instead of Hield.
“James and Davis encouraged the Lakers’ front office to go all-in for Westbrook rather than proceed with GM Rob Pelinka’s plans to trade for Sacramento’s Buddy Hield."
Buddy Hield Better Acquisition Than Russell Westbrook
It's hard to blame James and Davis for urging the Lakers to choose Westbrook over Hield. Aside from having more NBA experience than Hield, Westbrook is also a former MVP, a nine-time NBA All-Star, and a two-time All-NBA First Team. However, as of now, the Lakers must already be starting to regret their decision to trade for Westbrook instead of Hield.
Hield would in no doubt be a much better on-court fit with James and Davis than Westbrook. Hield isn't only an elite three-point shooter, but he could also excel on the court in an off-ball capacity. This season, the 29-year-old shooting guard is averaging 15.1 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 38.0 percent from beyond the arc, per ESPN.
Lakers Trying To Get Rid Of Russell Westbrook
With his underwhelming performance this season, rumors have started to circulate that the Lakers would try to get rid of Westbrook before the 2022 NBA trade deadline. Recently, there were growing speculations that the Houston Rockets were willing to swap John Wall for Westbrook. However, Stein said that the Westbrook-for-Wall swap is unlikely to happen as the Lakers refuse to give up a future first-round pick to the Rockets.
"League sources say that the Lakers, presented with an unexpected pathway to abort their Westbrook experiment by trading the NBA’s 2017 Most Valuable Player back to the Rockets in exchange for former All-Star John Wall, are unwilling to attach the 2027 first-rounder to make the deal happen," Stein wrote, as quoted by SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll.