The Runner Sports

How Russell Westbrook’s Contract Extension Impacts The Lakers’ Future

When Los Angels Lakers fans saw the news that Russell Westbrook had signed a contract extension they immediately dropped their heads. The Oklahoma City Thunder and their star point guard signed a deal worth $205 million for five years according to Adrian Wojnarowski. This contract makes Westbrook the highest paid player in the NBA and is the biggest contract of all-time. Westbrook definitely earned this big money by the numbers he put up in an MVP season. He became the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62.  Locking up Westbrook puts OKC at ease because they are used to losing stars via free-agency.

The Lakers, on the other hand, should be wary of the ripple effect this deal may have on their future plans.  Westbrook was expected to remain unsigned until next summer and explore his options in 2018. The number one team rumored to be in the front-running to sign Westbrook has always been the Lakers. This is because Westbrook is an LA native and starred for UCLA as well. The motive to sign Westbrook is questionable, considering the Lakers just spent the number two pick on Lonzo Ball. However, if the Lakers had any chance at signing Westbrook they would not pass on a player of his caliber. Maybe the Lakers would have been able to figure out how to make the Bruin legends work together. They play two completely different styles so it is possible, but now the world will never know. Here are some reasons why Lakers fans might be worried about the future after Westbrook’s extension.

Lakers’ plans to sign Westbrook go out the window

This one is obvious, but it is sad that Westbrook won’t play for the Lakers in his prime. Westbrook brings a fierce tenacity to the court that the Lakers haven’t seen since Kobe Bryant was bringing home championships. Westbrook could still sign with the Lakers five years from now or if he opts out in four years. But by that time Lonzo Ball should be entrenched as the face of Lakers franchise. They will not want to pair him with a ball dominant guard who would be in his early thirties. It is safe to say that Westbrook playing in LA is a fantasy at this point.

Paul George is less likely to sign in free agency next summer

When Paul George was traded to the Thunder it seemed like he would be a rental for them. However, after they made a trade with the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony this offseason, and they re-signed Westbrook, George may want to rethink about leaving the Thunder so soon. It might be hard for three players who like to have the ball to work together on offense. But, if the Thunder have a good season, and go deep in the playoffs, why would he go elsewhere? The whole reason why George was traded from the Pacers in the first place was that he openly declared he was going to sign with the Lakers next season. The Lakers were even found to have tampered with George this offseason but they can still sign him in 2018.

LeBron will not want to come to LA with no established superstar to go with

All summer long the rumors have been swirling around Cleveland about LeBron James leaving next summer in free agency. To make matters worse, their other superstar, Kyrie Irving, created quite a stir in the offseason when he requested to be traded. Presumably, the Cavs got better for this season after the Irving trade. They brought back Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, who will both play impact minutes down the stretch next year. They also have a high draft pick going into next season that came along in the trade as well. These are all assets that help their cause to re-sign LeBron next summer.

Paul George is the player LeBron would want to play with next year in LA.  If Paul George stays in OKC who is James going to take with him to fill the other supermax slot that Lakers have to offer? He has plenty of friends around the league who would be likely to join the Lakers like Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony. However, none of those players fit as well with the current timeline of the Lakers’ roster like Paul George. In fact, these three might not even be considered superstar players anymore. LeBron could still come to LA by himself, but why would he leave a finished product in the East to join a young startup in the crowded West.

Free Agents across the league might be less likely to sign with Lakers

With LeBron less likely to come to LA next season that could do one of two things to the Lakers. It could open the door for another free-agent to take his place on a max contract. Conversely, it could also make no free agents want to come to LA at all. Everyone wants to play with LeBron, so if he does not come, the Lakers will have to turn elsewhere to entice players around the NBA. Lonzo Ball and the young core of the Lakers look solid, but so far young talent has not been enough to attract big-name players to the franchise. This season could be different if the team takes a giant leap in the win column. If the Lakers want to compete for titles anytime soon like the old days, they are going to have to land better free agents better than Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andrew Bogut.

 

The Lakers have a long way to go in making this team contenders for the playoffs, let alone a title. Next summer was supposed to be the time for the Lakers to land superstar free agents. After this extension for Russell Westbrook, it looks like they might swing and miss again. Missing out on LeBron James or Paul George next summer would set the Lakers back tremendously, and it would take them longer than expected to get where they want to go.