Russell Westbrook, Kobe’s Lakers Successor?

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Updated: March 2, 2015
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The Legendary Los Angeles Lakers are in the middle of a rebuilding period that may prove to be something worth waiting for. Many detractors say it will be years until the Lakers win another championship and lift a 17th banner in the Staples Center rafters. I for one said the Lakers might go through a stretch like they did in the 1990’s and not win for an entire decade.

Kobe Bryant, the incumbent legend is past his prime and can’t carry the franchise like he once could. Dr. Jerry Buss who built the Showtime Lakers brand has passed and in his stead the team was left to his son Jim and daughter Jeanie to continue on with his amazing legacy.

And the rival Clippers have shown signs of life in recent years and although they will never overtake the Lakers brand, for a lot of sports fans it’s “what have you done for me lately.” With all those factors, mainly no superstar on the horizon and Jim Buss running the team, I was sure the Lakers time on top had run its course for the foreseeable future.

I may have to start rethinking the entire Lakers may struggle for years narrative I have in my head, and there’s a lot of levels to this. And the main level is acquiring Russell Westbrook. But before the Lakers can think about getting Russell, there needs to be a foundation for him to come to.


Money Makes The World Go Round…


There are two ways to build a team in American sports, Free Agency and the draft. We will get to the latter of the two soon enough. But let’s begin with free agency and the Lakers spending power. Money is not something the Lakers will never have problems with, so the money hurdle is never really a hurdle for them. But regardless of how rich a franchise is, the NBA salary cap governs all, and not even the mighty Lakers are above an NBA Luxury Tax.

Meaning the Lakers must either spend wisely in the near future or not spend at all. So that way when the summer of 2017 hits, they’ll have all the free space they need to sign Westbrook when he hits free agency. The only major contract the Lakers have on their books currently is Kobe Bryant and his 25 million dollars for 2015-2016.

Once Kobe’s contract is up, it’s clear sailing for the Lakers. Keep in mind not only will the Lakers have an abundance of cap space to sign two max players once Kobe is off the books, but the NBA cap space is reportedly raising in 2016 because of the new league wide TV contract.

As long as Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss don’t lose their minds and making stupid signings before the summer of 2017, the Lakers will have enough money to sign whomever they want and not think twice about. That’s a start.

Players Are Needed To Build A Team With…


Free Agency is great, but the NBA draft is a gold mine for cheap young talent. The Lakers are a dream franchise, and if that’s the place you get drafted to, you’re not leaving. The Lakers drafted Julian Randle in the 2014 NBA Draft, and although he suffered a terrible season ending leg injury, the young Power Forward is a promising young talent that will play a role for the Lakers for years to come. The Lakers will also have a great pick in the 2015 NBA Draft because of the season they currently enduring. With only 16 wins in the beginning of March, it’s safe to say the Lakers are destined for a top 5 pick, top 8 at worst.

If the Lakers can get another player like Randle, then there are two future players that will grow with the franchise and be part of the Lakers fabric. And who knows, if next season is a lot like this one, which is very possible if Kobe goes down, this may be a three-year process in which the Lakers are building a contender primarily through the draft.

Anything is possible. But the Lakers know they’ll at least have Randle and their 2015 pick to build around; good enough. That’s two pieces of the puzzle. The Final piece is the player that’ll help propel the Lakers back to where they’re used to being, playing for championships every season. And that player may be Russell Westbrook.

Russell Bestbrook, Hollywood’s Very Own?


Earlier in the piece I made mention of the Showtime Lakers that Dr. Jerry Buss built which made the Lakers a Los Angeles attraction for years. The last of that attraction is the great Kobe Bryant, but as we have seen for all legends, Father Time is undefeated. Kobe is on his last legs of entertainment and winning value for the Lakers, and he has to pass the baton to the next Laker great. And who better than a kid born and raised in Los Angeles. Westbrook is an LA native that went to UCLA and surely knows what it’s like to be the star attraction in the City of Angels. Russ is one of the ten best players in the NBA, maybe top 5 depending on who you ask, and that’s exactly the sort of player the Lakers need to get them back to the top.

Westbrook is easily the most athletically gifted point guard the Association has ever seen, and he’s getting better every season. This season alone, Westbrook is must see TV and has been mentioned as a recent MVP candidate with his recent season performance following his amazing showing at the 2015 All-Star game. In the month of February, Westbrook is averaging 31 points, 10 assists and 9 rebounds and had three straight triple doubles to close out the month.

He’s been on an absolute tear in Kevin Durant’s absence, and the Thunder need him to be great in order for the team to make the playoffs until Durant returns. But it’s these kinds of performances that the Lakers faithful expect night in and night out, and the hometown son Westbrook may be tasked with this charge. In the summer of 2017 Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent and at the peak of his powers. The question is what situation will his current team be in. Right now Westbrook is playing next to one of the two best players in the sport.

And a lot is made about them not being able to coexist and win a title for the Oklahoma City Thunder. If the Thunder win a championship, would Westbrook really want to leave a situation where he was able to make money and still play for titles yearly, while playing next to a future hall of famer? Or will Durant bounce out of OKC in his first opportunity leaving Westbrook to follow right behind him?

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What if Durant does decide to leave and Russ likes the feeling of having the Thunder all to himself, does he still go? It’s too early to tell, but there’s always the possibility that the Westbrook/Durant dynamic can go the way of Kobe/Shaq, and the team is only big enough for one mega star.

There are countless scenarios that I can see with Westbrook both staying and going. But the allure of playing for the hometown team may be too much to turn down if the opportunity presents itself. And Westbrook is just the kind of polarizing superstar that can follow in Kobe’s footsteps flawlessly in LA.

Of course, this can all be a pipe dream and Russ can love life in Oklahoma City and the Westbrook/Durant tandem may go on to enjoy as much success as Kobe and Shaq and Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before them. But when it comes to the Lakers, never doubt they can get their man. And in sports, anything is possible.

So we will just have to wait and see how all this plays out. But if Russ and the Lakers do end up becoming a union at some point, it will be a Hollywood script that the Lakers have written a million times before. And we’ve all seen how that movie ends, with a lot of banners.

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