A trade that makes too much sense is the Lakers sending over Russell Westbrook to the Knicks in exchange for Julius Randle and Evan Fournier. One thing is if Russell Westbrook continues to bea disaster the Knicks will shave him off their payroll since he only has 1 year left on the 5-year max he signed with Oklahoma City years ago and the Knicks have to open up major minutes for rising star Obi Toppin who proved he is ready to become their starting power-forward going into next season. Nothing against Julius he was a former 7th overall pick and played at an MVP level the previous season but I’ve always believed the Knicks were asking too much of Julius if they expected him to ever be the savior of the franchise. Julius just can’t be a first option on a championship team, he isn’t getting any younger and shouldn’t be part of a team looking to rebuild through their young core which is what the Knicks should be doing.
It was evident in the second half of the season that Obi Toppin was being misused, anyone who saw him at Dayton would understand he was way too skilled and athletic to not thrive at the NBA level where it’s all pace and space and Toppin’s game is ideal for a big man playing in this current era. The Knicks were winning more and the Garden was electric, RJ Barrett erupted for 46 points on the Miami Heat at home and that’s when I came to the conclusion that the Knicks 2 main untouchables going forward should be Barrett and Toppin. Toppin was unleashed and displayed his skill level scoring from the post on turn-around fades, pushing the ball up the floor, pump faking and pulling up for mid-range jumpers it was truly a joy to watch his movement from the post as it reminded me of former Knick favorite Larry Johnson who was a skilled stretch 4 who could score in a multitude of ways. You can’t put Toppin and Randle together in the starting lineup so the Knicks should part ways with Julius.
As far as Russell Westbrook goes the word around town is the Lakers want to see if new head coach Darvin Ham can find a way to integrate him into a system with James and Davis which isn’t a bad idea but do the Lakers really want LeBron off the ball and possibly gamble on him growing frustrated and possibly leaving next summer? From what I’ve heard Jeanie Buss wants to make LeBron happy for at least 2 more seasons in Los Angeles, no word on how LeBron feels about Russ being moved but their relationship goes beyond basketball so it wouldn’t be much of a big deal. Randle would likely push Davis to the center position which he hasn’t taken much liking to in his Laker tenure but I’d like to think new head coach will try and maximize Davis’s impact on the Lakers and use him in the best way which will help the team win next season.
To think Randle would accept a 6th man role on the Lakers is highly unlikely but who knows? What if Randle feels he has shown enough from a individualistic stand point as a player already and wants to focus on winning? He could help anchor the second unit and serve as a mini-LeBron when LeBron hits the bench, it’s what was floated around all-season about Westbrook and how he should take a 6th man role for the betterment of the team which never happened. The Lakers proved they can win a championship with a properly built roster around James and Davis 2020, I think Julius would be better served a 3rd option behind James and Davis being that he can operate from the post and doesn’t take the ball away from LeBron James. The Lakers are better off finding a point guard who can knock down 3’s off the catch and play above average defense, those are hard to find today but with two superstars like James and Davis who can do everything on the floor I don’t believe you need a point guard who only flourishes with the ball like Westbrook.
Evan Fournier is on a hefty contract and the Lakers would be practically capped out paying LeBron,Davis,Fournier and Randle but it’s worth the experiment. The Lakers manuevuring would be tight as far as building some depth but assuming LeBron and Davis remain healthy next season I think Fournier and Randle fit in perfectly with them. Evan will make LeBron’s dribble drive and kick-out lethal since he can not only catch and shoot it from all over the floor but he can also put the ball on the floor and still score in case defenders catchup to him off the ball. Evan is fundamentally sound and the game will open up for him with all the attention James and Davis garner in the half-court, he’s not someone you wan’t with the ball in their hands in a close game but I would take my chances with him if he finds himself open assuming opposing teams double team or attempt to trap.
To conclude as far as Russell Westbrook goes he’s 33 and not the same otherwordly athlete he was in the 2010’s which has effected his gravity on the court but would he not be worth the gamble on a roster which could actually use him with the ball in his hands? RJ Barrett probably has most Knicks fans still puzzled because he hasn’t made a superstar leap but I think he proved he can be a possible top 20 player maybe even possibly top 15 player in the NBA from now to 2030. Russell Westbrook will likely not play for a championship assuming he elects to re-sign with the Knicks beyond next summer but who’s to say he can’t assuming Toppin and Barrett maximize their ceilings? I’ll predict Westbrook goes back to averaging 22-23 ppg next season and helps the Knicks get back in the playoffs as RJ and Obi continue to ascend, and assuming Darvin is the mentor and leader they say he is he’ll find a way to be honest with both Randle and Davis about their roles and help bring the Lakers an 18th NBA championship in a season LeBron will make history and become the all-time leading scorer, till next time.