Russell Westbrook’s trade gets a new twist as Lakers President Jeanie Buss declares him the ‘Best Player Last Year’

The Los Angeles Lakers’ first season with Russell Westbrook was an absolute disaster. The former MVP played a big part in the franchise’s exit from the NBA Finals race after joining them just one season after they had won a championship.

Since no other NBA franchise wants to take on his $47 million salary, the organization has spent the whole of the 2022 offseason trying to trade him but has (so far) been unsuccessful. There have even been rumors that if Westbrook were to obtain a buyout following a trade, he might not be able to find a new team at all.

However, team owner Jeanie Buss disputed the idea that Westbrook’s first campaign in purple and gold was devoid of accomplishments. She went to an extreme that essentially no Lakers fan would agree with when she claimed that Westbrook was the team’s best player last year in an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic.

“All I can say is that, from my point of view, [Westbrook] was our best player last year. He played pretty much every single game, showed up, worked hard. You know, I would have loved to have seen what this team would have looked like if they stayed healthy.

“It’s really tough to win when Anthony Davis isn’t on the court. LeBron was hurt a lot of the season. But Russ showed up every game and played hard every night. And, you know, I just really appreciate him for who he is and what he brings to the team.”

Buss makes a really good point about the wellbeing and fitness of Russ. Last season, Westbrook, James, and Davis only appeared in 21 games together. When assembling the big three, chemistry between them is more important. James played in Miami’s core in 2010–11 alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The team had a 9-8 start before going on to a 49-16 run in the second half.

While the Lakers undoubtedly struggled with their bench players, defense, and three-point shooting (the team shot 34.7% from beyond the arc, ranking 22nd in the league), it’s obvious that fitness kept the franchise from reaching its full potential. Los Angeles ultimately concluded with a 33-49 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Zahid Iqbal

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