1 lesson Raptors must take from Russell Westbrook, Lakers season

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MAY 06: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles against Russell Westbrook #4 (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - MAY 06: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles against Russell Westbrook #4 (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

Anyone that believed the Toronto Raptors would have a better record than LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at the beginning of the season was either lying or a family member of a current player. Still, with Anthony Davis hurt and Russell Westbrook struggling, the Lakers are right on the edge of the play-in tournament at 29-37.

While Westbrook has undoubtedly been one of the main reasons that LA has disappointed this year, he is getting demonized far too much. The blame lies with Rob Pelinka and the front office for being blinded by name recognition over what he could bring to the table on the floor.

The Lakers’ trade with Washington saw them part ways with essentially their entire bench (including names like Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma) to sign Westbrook. Those pieces were replaced by veterans on cheap deals. As expected, the lack of shooting and cohesion has doomed this team.

There’s a lesson in LA’s struggles that Masai Ujiri and the Raptors should take to heart. Chasing stars and impact players might sound great, but you shouldn’t do so at the cost of your scheme, culture, or organizational identity. In an offseason where many are expecting big things from Toronto, Ujiri needs to avoid those pitfalls.

The Toronto Raptors must learn from Russell Westbrook and the Lakers.

The Raptors have all five of their starters under contract for next season, but with the new-look Celtics, star-laden Nets, and revamped 76ers in their division, Masai Ujiri might be tempted to swing for the fences. That desire to improve is admirable, but they need to be very judicious in how they go about doing that.

Westbrook is a fantastic rim-runner and offense generator when he dominates the ball, but he went to a team where James has the ball in his hands and Anthony Davis clogs up the paint. Imagine if Toronto traded their entire bench for a center that couldn’t shoot or switch on defense.

The Raptors need to add another versatile big man or a long-limbed guard that can shoot the lights out. Those would both fill needs and mesh well with players like Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam. Pulling off a deal similar in scale to Westbrook and just hoping all the pieces will fall into place is how Rob Pelinka ended up in this dilemma.


While the Lakers have typically been an organization that forsakes draft picks in the name of making win-now moves, the Westbrook was an extreme even for them. Toronto needs to be aggressive in the offseason, but not too aggressive.

Next. Raptors free agency: 4 backup centers. dark