LA Lakers Sign Dennis Schroder, Russell Westbrook’s Future Unknown

Posted on: September 20, 2022, 02:42h. 

Last updated on: September 21, 2022, 03:13h.

Dennis Schroder has returned to the Los Angeles Lakers. The free-agent point guard signed a one-year contract for a veteran’s minimum salary. The deal could drastically affect the future of Russell Westbrook.

Dennis Schroder LA Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook
Dennis Schroder taking the ball up for the court for the Lakers during his first stint with the team in 2020-21. Schroder returns to the Lakers after spending last season with the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets. (Image: David Zalubowski / AP)

During this offseason, the Lakers acquired point guard Patrick Beverly in a trade with the Utah Jazz. If you include Kendrick Nunn, the Lakers have four point guards on the team vying for playing time.

The Lakers were so bad last season that they bobbled a chance to qualify for the Western Conference Play-In Tournament with a 33-49 record. Owner Jeanie Buss fired head coach Frank Vogel, even though he won a title with the Lakers two seasons earlier. The Lakers hired Darvin Ham, who spent the last few seasons as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks, to replace Vogel.

Even though the Lakers missed the playoffs last season, they’re +1800 odds to win the 2023 NBA Championship, according to the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas.

Schroder Goes to Hollywood, Part 2

Schroder started 61 games for the Lakers during the 2020-21 season. He averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game. After one season, he turned down a lucrative contract extension to sign a deal of lesser time and value with the Boston Celtics.

Before the 2022 trade deadline, the Celtics traded Schroder to the Houston Rockets, where he finished out last season. In 64 games last season with the Celtics and Rockets, Schroder averaged 13.5 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Schroder returned to his home country of Germany this summer. He played for the national team in the FIBA World Cup qualifying games and the EuroBasket 2022 tournament. Schroder led Germany in scoring, averaging 25 points per game in EuroBasket. He led Germany to a bronze medal after they lost to eventual-champion Spain in the semifinals. Schroder’s outstanding play earned him a spot on the All-EuroBasket tournament team.

Before signing with the Lakers, Schroder was the top remaining unsigned free agent on the open market. He was being courted by other contenders like the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. He surprisingly returned to the Lakers.

There’s no short of gossip in Hollywood, but the word on the street was that Schroder and LeBron James didn’t get along. Their frosty relationship is allegedly one of the primary reasons that Schroder didn’t sign a contract extension and why he bolted for Boston. If there was any beef between Schroder and LeBron, they cleared the air when he returned to the Lakers. It’s more likely that their perceived rift was just fodder for the NBA gossip mill.

Westbrook: Trade or Sixth Man?

The Lakers struggled with Westbrook at point guard last season. But as a max-contract player, he made too much money to trade him during the off-season. The  Lakers failed to work out a deal because of limited options. The Brooklyn Nets were interested in a trade for Westbrook that included Kyrie Irving, but the Lakers were unwilling to include multiple first-round draft picks to seal the deal.

With training camp set for the end of September, it looks like the Lakers will ride or die with Westbrook. If Ham can persuade Westbrook to change his game, perhaps the Lakers could finish the season with Westbrook. That seems like a huge ask, considering Westbrook’s subpar offense and poor perimeter shooting plagued him last season.

There’s a controversial scenario where Schroder returns as the starting point guard, and Westbrook comes off the bench as the sixth man. That role could better suit Westbrook as the focal point on offense when LeBron and the first unit catch a breather. However, the demotion could be too much of a blow to Westbrook’s ego.

If Westbrook is unable or unwilling to alter his playing style dramatically, the Lakers will seek to move him with an in-season trade. Westbrook also has an expiring contract, which could be fiscally enticing for some teams closer to the trade deadline next February. It’s a huge risk to wait that long, especially if the Lakers stumble out of the gate and find themselves in jeopardy of missing the postseason for a second straight year.