Russell Westbrook Trade from Lakers to Heat 'Makes Sense,' NBA Exec Says

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 7, 2022

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for The h.wood Group

The Los Angeles Lakers have made all of the efforts to publicly back Russell Westbrook this offseason, but it's hard to ignore that a change of scenery would probably be best for both the player and organization.

And one team that might actually be a fit for Westbrook at this stage of his career is the Miami Heat.

"It makes sense," an Eastern Conference executive told Fox Sports' Ric Bucher. "Miami believes they can rehabilitate anyone."

Bucher wrote that "team executives and scouts could only come up with one potential landing spot" for Westbrook, and it was the Heat. He noted team president Pat Riley "has a history of cultivating fiery competitive players, from Alonzo Mourning to Brian Grant to Jimmy Butler."

But the same stylistic clashes Westbrook has faced with Los Angeles would be present with Miami.

Butler and Bam Adebayo spend a fair amount of time on the ball, much like LeBron James. Westbrook has traditionally been a ball-dominant point guard and offers little off the ball given his woeful perimeter shooting (29.8 percent from three last season, 30.5 percent in his career).

Miami also loves to bang on about its culture of hard work and defensive engagement. Westbrook's effort has never been called into question, at least on the offensive side of the ball, but his defensive intensity could be described as wavering.

And what would a trade even look like? The Heat could deal Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson to make the money work, but surely they'd want more than just Westbrook in return unless they've stopped believing in both players. (Robinson play just 12.2 minutes per game in the playoffs last season, so it's feasible the Heat would be comfortable moving on from him.)

And while the 36-year-old Lowry has struggled with injuries in recent years, his defensive willingness and ability to play off the ball (37.7 percent from three last season, 36.8 in his career) make him a much more natural fit with the Heat.

Plus, even if Miami believes it could get the most out of Westbrook, he would still have to acknowledge that his style needs to change so he can best fit on a contending team.

"It is not what he has left, it is how he will accept that he is not the player that he was," an Eastern Conference scout told Bucher. "It's similar to Carmelo [Anthony]. I'm not sure Russ has the awareness to accept a lesser role."

Something has to give. If Westbrook stays with Los Angeles, his best role may be coming off the bench, as the newly acquired Patrick Beverley is a more natural fit at guard alongside James and Anthony Davis.

"It's hard to see him as anything but a backup for the Lakers," a Western Conference scout told Bucher. "It's hard for him to play with [Davis] and LeBron. It might be OK if they let him go with the second unit. He has to play the only way he knows how unless he can miraculously learn to shoot."

Westbrook, however, has already bristled at such a role.

A change of scenery might afford him the opportunity to keep the role he's played throughout his career. But it's hard to find a landing spot for him with that in mind. The Heat certainly don't feel like a natural match, however much they might believe in the transformative powers of their oft-discussed culture.


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