While former Lakers head coach Frank Vogel benched Russell Westbrook late in games a small handful of times last season, new coach Darvin Ham will have more power to do so this season, assuming Westbrook remains on the roster and Ham decides there are better fits in crunch time, says Jovan Buha of The Athletic.
Buha expects Westbrook to get opportunities to close out games, but notes that it will depend on his shooting, decision-making, and defense.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are, of course, locks to be part of the Lakers’ “closing” five, and Buha views Austin Reaves as the next-best bet to join that group because he can be a secondary ball-handler. Buha predicts that Juan Toscano-Anderson and Troy Brown will fill out the closing five in instances when Westbrook is on the bench.
Here’s more on the Lakers:
- Although Kendrick Nunn recently said he feels 100% healthy after missing the entire 2021/22 season due to a knee injury, he has yet to resume playing five-on-five, which will be the “next big hurdle” in his recovery process, Buha writes. The expectation for now is that Nunn will be ready to go for training camp.
- Buha believes that the Lakers are done adding veteran free agents this offseason, and that any additional roster changes would come via trade. He notes that the team could also be active on the buyout market after the 2023 trade deadline.
- LeBron James will become eligible on Thursday to sign a contract extension with the Lakers, but Chris Mannix of SI.com doesn’t believe James will be in any rush to sign that deal, since he can maintain leverage and keep pressure on the team by taking his time. He could sign that extension at any time up until June 30, 2023.