Just two seasons ago, Russell Westbrook was playing like his usual self, putting up consistent triple-double numbers and leading his team to the playoffs. Now, just two seasons later, Westbrook may not have a spot on an active NBA roster.
It’s crazy to believe, right? As a former MVP winner in 2017 after being the first player to average a triple double since Oscar Robertson and being elected to multiple All-Star appearances, the thought of Westbrook not having any place on a roster seems unbelievable, especially with no serious injury history.
Yet, that may be the case, especially after the Los Angeles Lakers made a recent acquisition for guard Patrick Beverly, a player who can help the Lakers tremendously on the defensive end. While the team is still trying to ship out Westbrook to other teams, it was clear that Los Angeles may not be able to find an adequate trade package for him, especially with the team’s reluctance to include first round picks in transactions for the former All-Star.
While new coach Darvin Ham has lineups in mind to play both Westbrook and Beverly together, it simply doesn’t seem like it would work—especially with Ham looking for Westbrook to shoot more corner three-pointers, a task that isn’t very suitable for Westbrook’s game style.
But, that doesn’t mean that Westbrook isn’t suited for another team, right? After all, Westbrook did just put up 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. That sounds like great production for an NBA team’s roster. I argue that Westbrook’s inefficiency with his numbers, the amount of money he looks for from NBA teams, and his inability to come off the bench limits him from having a role with an NBA team.
There’s plenty of teams that already have starting guards in the NBA that put up much more efficient numbers than Westbrook. And even with point guards that may not reach the numbers that Westbrook puts up, they will still find more efficient ways to put the ball in the basket—whether through getting better looks at the basket or passing the ball to their teammates.
I’d argue that Westbrook does not even have a spot on rebuilding teams such as the Utah Jazz, who are moving on from Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, or a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder, who already have young guards like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Even if you look toward a team like the Orlando Magic, whose starting point guard is Markelle Fultz, Westbrook’s inefficient shot-taking could hurt the development of rookie Paolo Banchero.
The key to Westbrook staying in the NBA is sacrificing his role, whether that’s taking less shots, coming off the bench or getting the ball to efficient scorers. While NBA fans and analysts have yet to see Westbrook truly sacrifice his playstyle in his career as he looks to claim his first NBA title, he will need to make these necessary changes in order to continue his career in the league.
The reality is that Westbrook will not only fail to play to his true potential, but also hurt his team if he continues to play with his current style for any NBA team next season. The former All-Star is an excellent player, but if he’s able to sacrifice his current style of play to elevate his team to a potential ring, it may become one of the greatest moments in his career.