Lakers do-over No. 1: Russell Westbrook trade, 2021
We come to No. 1 on this list of moves that the Lakers wish they could have a do-over on, and we find ourselves firmly in the present. The worst move the Los Angeles Lakers made in the past decade came just last summer when they traded for a former MVP in Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers understandably were looking for a change. After winning the title in 2020 their defense went poorly, with injuries striking their stars and the role players unable to carry the ship. There was a lesson to be learned; as was made clear for his entire career, the path to competing for a title with LeBron James was surrounding him with shooting and defense. They moved away from that a bit in 2020-21 and it hurt them.
Did the Lakers learn their lesson? They sure didn’t. They got a D on their book report for not using Times New Roman, and instead of fixing it, they decided to write in crayon. At the behest of LeBron James himself, the Lakers took the backbone of their title-winning team, the key role players who helped make it happen, and traded them to the Washington Wizards (along with a first-round pick!) for Westbrook, a player who clearly did not fit on the Lakers’ roster.
Overnight, the Lakers went from a title contender to a laughingstock, with a shoot-happy point guard with terrible range dominating the ball. A wise person once described the most dangerous people as those who are “seldom correct but never in doubt” and that’s how Westbrook plays when deciding whether to shoot.
The worst part is the contract, as the Lakers didn’t simply trade for an ill-fitting player; they did so for one making $44 million in the first season and $47 million this season. They can’t move Westbrook without attaching significant value because his contract is so toxic. With LeBron James on their team the Lakers have wasted at least one, and likely two seasons of his late prime because of the disastrous Westbrook deal.
That was not a fun read for Lakers fans, but it does illustrate how poor the decision-making of their front office has been for the past ten or so years. To their credit, the team has drafted well, and LeBron James choosing to come helped bring them a title, but overall some of the very worst moves in the entire NBA in the last decade were made by the Lakers. Ouch.