When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Russell Westbrook, a blockbuster move if only by name, just about everyone's most modern basketball senses started tingling. Shooting. Spacing. The former creates the latter, and the Lakers -- having shipped out Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, their two most impactful 3-point marksmen -- appeared to be in short supply of both.
They went on to address a least a peripheral part of these concerns, adding Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk, Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn in free agency. I'm interested to see how many isolations the Lakers allow Anthony, how many plays they run to get Ellington shots, whether Monk's late stretch of excellence last season was indicative of a real corner turn, and how often Westbrook can contain his pull-up urges. But what I'm most interested in is how Frank Vogel, recently signed to a contract extension, deploys his lineups.
Westbrook is quite literally the worst volume 3-point shooter in history -- 30.5 percent for his career, the lowest mark of any player to attempt at least 2,500 triples. Three of the past four seasons he's been sub-30 percent from deep. When Westbrook, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are on the floor together, will Vogel fill the other two spots with shooters to give his three stars at least operational space?
Let's say he puts two of Ellington, Monk, Anthony and/or Talen Horton-Tucker with the big three. That puts Davis at the five, where we know he isn't happy. Let's say Davis gets his preferred big man next to him, either Marc Gasol or Dwight Howard, so he can stay at power forward. That's four shooters the defense will be happy to let fire away. And in both cases, the defense has holes.
To varying degrees, all four of Anthony, Ellington, Monk and Nunn are defensive liabilities, and the Lakers no longer have Caldwell-Pope or Alex Caruso, their two best on-ball defenders from last season. Their point-of-attack defense stands to be pretty soft. Westbrook can make a difference here, if he chooses to commit. But more than likely, the Lakers will be scrambling to cover initial breaches.