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Why it’s time for the Lakers to explore a Russell Westbrook for John Wall trade

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You’ve probably seen the clip by now. The Los Angeles Lakers, after trailing by as many as 23 points in their Christmas showdown with the depleted Brooklyn Nets, had managed to cut the deficit to only two with just under two minutes remaining. They’d held Brooklyn to just 10 points in the fourth quarter thus far, but on the most important possession of the game to that point, Russell Westbrook completely lost track of Patty Mills, one of the most dangerous shooters in the NBA midway through a 34-point explosion, who proceeded to drain the most important 3-pointer of the night.

It’s a pretty fitting encapsulation of Westbrook’s first 36 games as a Laker. The breakdown wasn’t entirely his fault. Malik Monk botches the initial switch. The game doesn’t end on this possession, either. The Lakers would go on to tie it at 115. 

But ultimately, what we have here is one of the most important plays of the game going against Westbrook’s team at least in part because of a mistake Westbrook makes fairly frequently. The best explanation for this defensive lapse was that he was playing the short-roll pass to Bruce Brown. The Lakers had three other bodies in the paint. A fourth was overkill if the price was a wide-open Mills, especially since Westbrook wasn’t particularly well-angled for a steal or strip. His freelancing gave Brooklyn its ideal shot. It was, at best, a high-risk, low-reward decision. 

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That’s one way people described the Westbrook trade itself. The Lakers sacrificed the bones of their top-ranked defense and nearly all of their matching salary to trade for a player whose skill set overlaps with LeBron James‘. They’ve paid a price for that. The Lakers were 23-11 through 34 games a season ago. They’re 16-18 now, and their net rating has fallen from fifth to 23rd. That isn’t to say he’s entirely to blame here. He’s even taken baby steps toward fitting in with his more accomplished teammate. He’s launching his fewest 3-pointers since the 2011-12 season, and he’s devoting more than half of those attempts to catch-and-shoot looks, which he’s typically made at a slightly higher clip than pull-ups. His usage rate is down to only 27.9 percent, the lowest figure he’s posted since his second NBA season, and he’s cut his mid-range attempts per game nearly in half from 6.1 last season to 3.1 this season. 

These are notable but minor changes. The Lakers are still devoting nearly seven shots per game to ineffective Westbrook jumpers, and 27.9 is still a fairly high usage rate for a guard that struggles to make shots. He’s turning the ball over as frequently as ever and he remains a paradoxically poor defender, the sort of player that prides himself on effort yet expends it inconsistently when his team isn’t the one that’s trying to score. The promising ball-screens he was setting for James earlier in the season have mostly faded out of the offense, and while he’s cutting slightly more than usual, nobody would mistake his growth for the progress Dwyane Wade made in the arena when he was forced to adjust to LeBron’s presence. He is… in other words… Russell Westbrook. 

That’s what makes blaming him for all of this team’s woes so unfair. He is essentially a slightly older version of the player he’s been for his entire career. If the Lakers expected wholesale stylistic changes just because he was joining a contender, well, they weren’t watching him closely enough in Oklahoma City or Houston. The Lakers, largely due to his $44 million salary, did him a disservice by cheaping out on Alex Caruso and depriving him of a proper defensive backcourt-mate. They unwisely loaded up on redundant ball-handlers rather than the shooters and defenders Westbrook needed to thrive alongside James. It’s not his fault that the Lakers don’t particularly need what he brings to the table and desperately lack what he doesn’t.

But Westbrook hasn’t exactly lived up to his end of the bargain either. The theoretical benefit of acquiring him was that it would allow the Lakers to limit LeBron’s minutes and survive the ones he missed. Well, 37-year-old LeBron is playing almost 37 minutes per night. When Westbrook plays without him, the Lakers are getting outscored by 7.4 points per 100 possessions. He isn’t easing anyone’s burden and he’s not keeping the Lakers afloat in their most vulnerable moments. Westbrook has a history of improving significantly as seasons progress, but it’s worth asking how meaningful that improvement would even be to this Lakers team. The No. 27 ranked Laker offense could certainly use more transition scoring and better efficiency at the rim from Westbrook, but what can he do to encourage more off-ball movement in teammates? The Lakers rank 18th in 3-point percentage and 22nd in attempts. There’s not much Westbrook himself could be doing to improve those rankings when he’s not a threat from behind the arc himself. Better defensive effort would be appreciated, but size and schematic reliability are weaknesses he’ll seemingly never grow out of.

All of these factors have come together to make the Lakers the most disappointing team in the NBA, and it’s not particularly surprising. The Lakers put Westbrook in a poor position to succeed and he, in turn, created artificial roster-building and on-court restraints that were visible to pretty much everyone outside of the organization from the moment the trade was announced. With Anthony Davis still injured and one of the NBA’s hardest remaining schedules, the playoffs are no longer even a certainty. Even if the Lakers never dreamed it could get this bad, it’s now a truth they can no longer avoid. Almost half of the season is gone. This experiment isn’t working. The time to seriously explore alternatives is now.

The problem they’re going to face is that there aren’t that many available. Most players in Westbrook’s salary range are significantly more valuable. Even if the Lakers are willing to trade him for Ben Simmons, for example, it just seems enormously unlikely that Philadelphia would consider such a proposal. Go down the list of very highly-paid players that aren’t superstars. Would Dallas send Kristaps Porzingis out in a Westbrook trade? Probably not. Would Boston delve deeper into the tax in an Al Horford-based swap? Highly doubtful. Cleveland has a good thing going. Why would the Cavs reunite Kevin Love with James just to take on $47 million in Westbrook salary for next season when Darius Garland is already better than him? There just aren’t many feasible trades out there. Few teams want inefficient lead ball-handlers like Westbrook. Fewer have salaries that can feasibly be traded for him. The only one that makes immediate sense is a player he’s already been traded for.

John Wall‘s contract is identical to Westbrook’s. He holds no on-court value to the Houston Rockets as their youth movement has kept him off of the floor entirely. He is represented by Rich Paul, the leader of Klutch Sports that also serves as the agent for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With all of this in mind, might some sort of Westbrook-for-Wall be worthwhile to the Lakers?

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Well… the immediate answer is probably not. Wall comes with many of the same limitations as Westbrook. He’s never been a particularly strong shooter, and with his 31st birthday and multiple significant injuries in the rearview mirror, it isn’t clear how much he has left in the tank defensively, either. 

But Wall has at least been an effective defender in the past. He earned All-Defensive honors in 2015, and while he’s declined since then, the Lakers could at least trust him to play hard and stick to the script on that end of the floor. Even without the speed that once made him special, there’s something to be said for reliability on a team with so many incapable defenders. A deeper dive into his shooting numbers paints a slightly more optimistic picture as well. Wall may be only a 32.3 percent career 3-point shooter, but he’s hovered around 38 percent on wide-open and catch-and-shoot 3’s since the NBA started tracking those looks during the 2013-14 season. Those are the sort of shots the Lakers need their non-LeBron perimeter players to make more than the low-percentage pull-ups that primary ball-handlers like Wall and Westbrook are often forced into.

For as much as Wall has seemingly lost physically, his raw numbers from last season are far closer to Westbrook’s now than the Lakers should be comfortable with. Wall shooting 55.4 percent in the restricted area last season was borderline disastrous by his standards… but Westbrook is at just 58 percent this season despite significantly more surrounding talent. Wall ranked in the 21st percentile in terms of efficiency as a transition scorer last season, according to Synergy Sports, but Westbrook ranks in just the 18th percentile this season. Both were roughly average in pick-and-roll and spot-up situations. Wall scored more points (20.6 to 19.6) but did so slightly less efficiently (48.5 effective field goal percentage for Westbrook compared to 45.8 for Wall). Westbrook’s superior rebounding is the primary statistical difference here. If Wall is declining, so is Westbrook.

That gets to the crux of the issue here. Wall probably can’t save the Lakers for many of the same reasons Westbrook isn’t fitting in with them. This roster, with 10 minimum-salary players, is so fundamentally flawed that no sub-All-Star-caliber player like Wall or Westbrook could singlehandedly fix it. So why would the Lakers explore such a trade? Because this mix isn’t working and trading one player, even a $44 million player, is more realistic than trading 10 of them. The Lakers can’t remake their entire supporting cast in the middle of the season. They can’t go back in time and bring Caruso back or better allocate their resources in free agency. This is the team that they have. They might be able to change it but they can’t overhaul it entirely. Even if a Wall trade doesn’t fix everything, it offers theoretical benefits that could potentially revitalize a team that is in desperate need of revitalization. It might help, but who cares if it doesn’t? The current team isn’t working either. If there’s a better deal out there, the Lakers should take it. In the likely event that there isn’t, doing something is still better than nothing. 

That brings us to the matter of cost. The Rockets have no incentive to help the Lakers. They also have far more leverage here. While they’ve vigorously shopped Wall, they’ve never done so from a position of desperation. They certainly appear comfortable keeping Wall benched until his contract expires. They have no intention of competing in that timeframe anyway. The Lakers do. They can’t just wait out Westbrook’s contract in part because James is about to turn 37 and in part because James can become a free agent in 2023, when Westbrook’s deal expires. Their window to win is right now, and the Rockets know that. If the Lakers prefer Wall, the Rockets can bleed them dry even if they’re just trading one player they have no intention of using for another. 

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That makes building an exact deal framework difficult. The Lakers have four of their own second-round picks and three external second-rounders to offer in a deal, and they’d surely prefer to offer those. The Rockets, who have taken a very public long-view of roster-building, would surely ask for the lone first-round pick that the Lakers can legally trade at the moment. That pick would come in either 2027 or 2028. The Lakers would likely balk at that request. There’s no telling which side would blink first, and it would be an epic staring contest. The Lakers, knowing the Rockets have no other Wall offers on the table, would try to hold firm knowing that they would essentially be offering Houston free draft picks. The Rockets, in turn, would know that the Lakers have no alternate Westbrook deals to pivot into and could therefore play hardball knowing that they have no immediate need to make a deal.

That game of chicken is just one of the many obstacles to a deal here. In all likelihood, even if the Lakers have explored Westbrook deals, they’re probably going to end up keeping him through the end of the season at least. They just shouldn’t be surprised if doing so continues to produce the lackluster results they’ve received all season.



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Watch Wolves vs. Fulham: How to live stream, TV channel, start time for Saturday’s Premier League game

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The Premier League returns to action on Saturday.

Who’s Playing

  • Fulham @ Wolverhampton
  • Current Records: Fulham 0-0-1; Wolverhampton 0-1
  • Last Season Records: Wolverhampton 15-17-6; Fulham 0-0

Want more soccer? Paramount+ is the only place to watch every minute of every Serie A match this season, not to mention select games in Italian. Sign up now with offer code ITALY to get a special one month free trial. A subscription also gives you access to other sports content including every UEFA Champions League and Europa League match, the NFL on CBS, and countless movies and shows. Get it all free for one month with promo code ITALY.

What to Know

Wolverhampton is 3-0-1 against Fulham since December of 2018, and they’ll have a chance to extend that success on Saturday. They are meeting up for their first leg of the season at 10 a.m. ET at Molineux Stadium.

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It was all tied up 1-1 at halftime, but Wolves were not quite Leeds United’s equal in the second half when they met on Saturday. Wolverhampton fell a goal short of Leeds United, losing 2-1. That was Wolverhampton’s second consecutive one-goal defeat against Leeds United.

Speaking of close games: Fulham and Liverpool ended up with a point apiece after a 2-2 draw.

Fulham is 0-0-1 (one point) and Wolverhampton is 0-1 (zero points), so if Wolverhampton wins they will leapfrog Fulham in the standings.

Craving even more coverage of the world’s game? Listen below and follow ¡Qué Golazo! A Daily CBS Soccer Podcast where we take you beyond the pitch and around the globe for commentary, previews, recaps and more.

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How To Watch

  • Who: Wolverhampton vs. Fulham
  • When: Saturday at 10 a.m. ET
  • Where: Molineux Stadium
  • Watch: Peacock
  • Caesars sportsbook odds: Wolves +135; Draw +230; Fulham+210

Featured Game | Wolverhampton vs. Fulham

Series History

Wolverhampton won three meetings and tied one meeting in their last four contests with Fulham.

  • Apr 09, 2021 – Wolverhampton 1 vs. Fulham 0
  • Oct 04, 2020 – Wolverhampton 1 vs. Fulham 0
  • May 04, 2019 – Wolverhampton 1 vs. Fulham 0
  • Dec 26, 2018 – Wolverhampton 1 vs. Fulham 1



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2022 St. Jude Championship leaderboard: J.J. Spaun maintains one-stroke lead heading into weekend action

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TPC Southwind is slowly drying out as fierce thunderstorms blew through the Memphis area on Tuesday. While players were able to take advantage of the soft conditions in the first round, Friday was a different story as the typically firm and fast conditions of the course began to bite back.

While the playing conditions may have changed, the man who was up to the task remained the same. Overnight leader J.J. Spaun will sleep on the lead once again, as the Texas Open winner will head into the weekend at 11 under and a one-stroke lead over Sepp Straka and Troy Merritt. Spaun backed up his scorching round of 8-under 62 to kick off the St. Jude Championship with a 3-under 67 Friday afternoon to maintain his edge over the field.

Straka was the man to climb the leaderboard in the morning hours of the second round, as he followed up an opening 6-under 64 with a second-round 66. A winner at the Honda Classic earlier this season, the former Georgia Bulldog has since struggled to find such quality and arrived in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, having missed the cut in his last six tournaments.

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Behind the three men in double-digits under par are some of the hottest players in the world. Tony Finau sits at 8 under and looks to become the first man since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win in three straight starts. Also sitting at 8 under is the Champion Golfer of the Year Cameron Smith, who will look to avenge his 72nd-hole disappointment at TPC Southwind from a year ago.

The leader

1. J.J. Spaun (-11)

Some may believe the true lead of this tournament resides with those at 8 under, but Spaun should have some staying power on this leaderboard. Collecting his first career victory at TPC San Antonio in the spring, the Los Angeles native displayed serious resolve down the stretch and throughout his tenure on the PGA Tour.

He has gotten around TPC Southwind in a relatively stress-free fashion up to this point as well. Carding 13 birdies against just two bogeys, he has been able to limit the damage and understands when missing a fairway that par is a good score. Sitting fifth in strokes gained tee to green and fourth in strokes gained putting, it is no wonder he finds himself at the top of the leaderboard and in contention for his second trophy of the season.

Other contenders

T2. Sepp Straka, Troy Merritt (-10)

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4. Denny McCarthy (-9)

T5. Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Cameron Smith, Ryan Palmer (-8)

Technically, Finau is the defending champion, as he broke a five-year hiatus from the winner’s circle with a victory at The Northern Trust, but let’s change gears. Another player to have made headlines recently is Smith, who is rumored — to put it lightly — to be heading to the LIV Golf Series following the completion of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The Australian has been terrific in 2022 as he dueled Jon Rahm at the Tournament of Champions, grabbed the largest purse of the season at the Players Championship and captured the Claret Jug at St. Andrews. Smith will enter the weekend as the betting favorite as he catapulted himself to the first page of the leaderboard courtesy of an eagle on the par-5 16th. Having already collected just shy of $10 million in the regular season, he has now positioned himself to potentially triple that total with a strong postseason run. 

Scheffler, McIlroy lowlight those sent packing early

Beginning the week with more than a 1,000-point edge in the FedEx Cup, Scottie Scheffler is in danger of relinquishing the top spot in the standings. In possession of the lead for more than 20 weeks, the world No. 1 may see a different number next to his name at the BMW Championship after missing the cut at TPC Southwind.

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Last season saw Collin Morikawa enter the postseason as the top man, only for him to fall to 28th by the time the Tour Championship culminated. At the very worst, Scheffler will only drop to No. 2, and he may avoid such movement as his misstep was not the only one.

Fresh off a two-week break from golf, Rory McIlroy showed considerable rust around TPC Southwind. Signing for rounds of 70-69, the man who entered the week sixth in the FedEx Cup standings ultimately missed the cut by a single stroke and will have his work cut out for him next week if he is to enter the Tour Championship within reach of the leader.

The good news for McIlroy is world No. 1 and FedEx Cup regular-season leader Scheffler is not in a position to extend his lead. With potentially a new man atop the standings, the world No. 3 can take solace in his history at East Lake, where he has raised the FedEx Cup twice before.

In total, six players inside the top 20 of the FedEx Cup standings will not be around for the weekend, as Hideki Matsuyama (No. 11), Jordan Spieth (No. 15), Tom Hoge (No. 17) and Billy Horschel (No. 18) will head to Wilmington earlier than expected.

Biggest FedEx Cup movers from Friday

Lucas Glover

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121

60

Yes

Ryan Palmer

110

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57

Yes

Troy Merritt

64

17

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Yes

Tyler Duncan

118

75

No

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Sepp Straka

35

10

Yes

James Hahn

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108

83

No

Adam Scott

77

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53

Yes

Brian Harman

55

32

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Yes

J.J. Spaun

25

2

Yes

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Lee Hodges

99

77

No

2022 St. Jude Championship updated odds and picks

  • Cameron Smith: 23/4
  • Tony Finau: 13/2
  • J.J. Spaun: 17/2
  • Troy Merritt: 10-1
  • Denny McCarthy: 14-1
  • Justin Thomas: 14-1
  • Matt Fitzpatrick: 14-1
  • Sepp Straka: 16-1
  • Will Zalatoris: 18-1
  • Sam Burns: 20-1
  • Brian Harman: 20-1

With 26 players within five strokes of the lead, this remains anyone’s ballgame with 36 holes to be played. We saw last year with Bryson DeChambeau and Harris English that TPC Southwind can be a difficult golf course to close on, as the water hazards tend to get ever so slightly bigger when the pressure is on. Factor in the FedEx Cup Playoffs and this should be ramped up a touch. Because of this, it may be prudent to search among those names at 5 under — or maybe even 4 under. 

Jon Rahm is the obvious name, as he is one of those at 4 under and listed at 40-1. Ranking seventh in strokes gained tee to green, the Spaniard has been unable to get things rolling on the greens and has a trio of three putts to his name already. The putter has been an issue all season, but it could be worth an investment. If not Rahm, Rickie Fowler is still a name which is still intriguing at 300-1. He is a long shot for a reason, but his off-the-tee numbers have been incredible and his approach statistics are negatively skewed by two iron shots that found the water on Friday. Everything else looks good in his game, and he has shown a liking for TPC Southwind in the past.

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Trayce Thompson hits three-run home run in Dodgers' 8-3 victory over Royals

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Trayce Thompson hit a three-run home run in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 8-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.



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