What is the best situation for Russell Westbrook? Tea Open Floor podcast dives into what role he should play next season and whether he should find a new home.
The following transcript is an excerpt from The Open Floor podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere gold we SI.com.
Rohan Nadkarni: I do have sympathy for Russ in this regard where, if he’s been in trade rumors for this entire summer—which he has been—then I understand why he’s like, Hey, man, get me outta here. Like, you don’t want me here. Fine. Like, you know, I can help another team.
It’s interesting that you bring up that you think this situation makes sense for him, because that was kind of my question coming out of this. … You wrote about this when the Lakers traded for Russ that, in the history of Big Threes, you don’t really have this kind of guy as your third-best player.
So maybe you think the best situation for him is the Lakers. I’m just curious if you’ve given any thought to: Is there a role that he should even be playing at this point in his career? I remember at one point we were saying, Bring Russ off the bench. But even that, I’m like, Is that what makes the most sense? What do you think is the role he should have on a basketball team?
Chris Herring: I mean, that is the role. I think the challenge is that Russ has no interest in playing it.
In fairness, he has been in trade rumors since early in his Lakers tenure. And so maybe it is just, I’ve had enough of this, like, just find somewhere else for me to play if you don’t really want me here. But the other side of it is that we’ve had this question about Carmelo Anthony before; we have this question about Russ: What are you willing to sacrifice to win? We all had questions out of the gate when he went to the Lakers about if he needs the ball as much as Russ always needs the ball. What does that mean for LeBron? And also, you know, do you want Russ to have the ball that much, anyway?
So coming off the bench would at least allow him an opportunity to go against second units, would allow him the opportunity to be the guy in pick-and-rolls, would allow him to be the one guy that you can play at one time that can’t shoot particularly at a time where Anthony Davis has regressed so badly from three.
Yeah, I think there is a better fit for him. I don’t think it’s part of, you know, being a guy that has a usage rate as high as Russ’s usage rate for a guy that really can’t shoot. To what I think you were getting at before, I think that there would’ve been perfect fits for him, or not perfect, but better fits for him. But I think that those fits would be teams that basically make a decision that they’re not trying to win right now and that they don’t have a high-level, young point guard.
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So, it’s interesting from that standpoint, because there are people that questioned, you know, for a while before Jalen Brunson and everything, should the Knicks—they’ve never really had a point guard in his prime that was anywhere near top level. Russian is not at his prime. He is not top level anymore, but—should you take one year of him to get assets? And if you need a ballhandler anyway, better than like an Elfrid Payton or someone like that, like, Could you see it?
But the thing is, I think you look around the league and you’ve got like, the Kings, and you’ve got the Pacers, and you’ve got the Magic; they all have point guards. They all have pretty decent young point guards that they’re already trying to hand the loins over to.
You don’t have that many teams that don’t have a guy. Even the Knicks now have Brunson. So I don’t know that there’s really a perfect fit for him out there. And I think that’s part of the reason that we’re looking at the situation we’re looking at, which is just that there’s not a market for him at all, even for teams that would be happy tanking and would be OK with giving away one year of that to better their draft pick. You would need a team that had its own draft pick, that was OK with losing, that could maybe look at Russ as a potential rehab project but probably not. They would just be getting more assets, and there aren’t many teams like that. Despite what you were saying earlier about how many teams are going to be looking to lose.
You know, people were like, Oh, how great would it be if Russ, if KD went back to Oklahoma City? OK, but you wouldn’t do that with Russ when they have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. You’re just not gonna do that. And it’s bad business sometimes when you can’t go back home. Like, Russ is beloved in Oklahoma City, but there’s no spot for him there. Even though they’re trying to lose, like Josh Giddey and all these other guys are not gonna have the ball in their hands if Russ is there. Unless you’re bringing him off the bench in OKC. Good luck bringing Russ off the bench for like a 15-, 18-win team. See how that goes over.
Nadkarni: I know I’m dumping a lot of players on the Spurs today, but hey, they just traded their point guard again. If there’s anyone who I think can get the respect of players, it’s Pop, and for the Spurs, it’s kind of like, they have the cap space. I feel like if they were able to take on some assets for Russ—I don’t know what the Lakers would want back. I don’t think they could get Keldon Johnson…
Herring: No, they wouldn’t.
Nadkarni: It would be a dump. But the Spurs could take him on, and worst case they could buy him out if it didn’t go well. It would be interesting. Maybe that’s a place where he could go. The team’s not gonna win a ton. They’re not gonna be completely awful. And he could rehabilitate his image to an extent.
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