Russell Westbrook has been a let-down for the Los Angeles Lakers, prompting the question of who would have been better than him for the team.
Back in August, newly-acquired Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook was ranked at the No. 10 point guard in the NBA.
“Russ is ranked too low,” FS1 analyst Shannon Sharpe said at the time. “There’s no way there are 9 PG’s better than him currently in the NBA.”
Now, the Lakers have a 7-5 record, which is a little too average for what was supposed to be a superteam in 2021. All season long, Westbrook has evoked his “Westbrick” nickname with costly misses and sloppy play. While LeBron James’ injuries certainly contributed to a few losses, so has the way Westbrook has been playing.
Instead of trading with the Washington Wizards for Westbrook, there are a few other trade possibilities the Lakers could have considered over the summer that may have played out more successfully.
Here are three elite point guards that the teams could have pursued instead of Russell Westbrook.
3. James Harden
Would James Harden have traded Brooklyn for Los Angeles to defeat the superteam he once scorned?
Harden said back in January of this year that he no longer wanted to play for the Houston Rockets because he didn’t feel they could defeat the Lakers. And the one time Harden did make the 2012 NBA Finals with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they were defeated by LeBron James’ Miami Heat team.
Harden left the Rockets in an attempt at an East Coast superteam with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Irving left his teammates in the lurch by refusing to get vaccinated this season.
The Nets’ record is now 9-4 as they lead near the top of the pack in the Eastern Conference, leaving one to wonder whether or not Harden could have led Los Angeles to a few more victories.
Harden made it abundantly clear how contingent his regional loyalty was on wins when he left the Rockets. While he could end up doing that in Brooklyn, he’s well-aware that the Lakers are a force to be reckoned with in the league.
2. Ben Simmons
It might seem like a shock to consider at this point, given all the ugliness that’s gone down between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers, but back in July, a Lakers-76ers trade might have made everyone happy.
Although it’s possible Simmons still could have been a liability, perhaps his discontent is strictly tied to the 76ers.
If so, the Lakers could have worked with the 76ers to broker a valuable trade. Then, Simmons could have flown to L.A. and soared in purple and gold.
Before the season began, NBA.com ranked Simmons as the No. 7 point guard in the league. If nothing else, Simmons is the top point guard prospect aggressively seeking a trade, and he would have fit in with L.A.’s star-studded roster.
After all, Simmons bought a home in Los Angeles earlier this summer — maybe this was the trade he was hoping for all along.
1. Damian Lillard
No, Lillard is not betraying Rip City to become a Laker — but it’s possible that slightly different circumstances could have convinced him otherwise.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, the dedicated Portland Trail Blazer detailed how he lunched with LeBron James and Anthony Davis earlier this summer. Feeling dejected after his team could not push through the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Since Lillard joined Portland in 2012, the team has made NBA playoffs every year since 2014, but the farthest they’ve gone is through two rounds of the Western Conference finals in 2019.
Lillard stressed that he was loyal to Portland and wants to bring a championship to that city instead of leaving, but what if the Lakers tried harder to pursue him?
James has proven to be influential, recruiting Anthony Davis to L.A. and advocating for Westbrook. If the Lakers tried to make a deal with the Trail Blazers, perhaps the decision would have been out of Lillard’s hands entirely.
While the Lillard idea is little more than wishful thinking at this point, one can only imagine what James’ recruiting influence might have accomplished if it went beyond a casual lunch.