“He doesn’t have to be Alex Caruso… Pay attention to your man” - Kevin Wildes highlights the areas Russell Westbrook has to improve on to succeed with the LA Lakers

Russell Westbrook of the LA Lakers
Russell Westbrook of the LA Lakers

Fox Sports analyst Kevin Wildes gave Russell Westbrook a few suggestions to improve his game for next season so he is not a liability to the LA Lakers. Westbrook had one of the worst seasons of his career last year, and several trade rumors have erupted in the offseason. Many analysts and pundits have suggested that the Lakers need to get rid of Westbrook or else they'll continue in mediocrity.

However, the latest reports suggest the Lakers are not giving up on Westbrook and he is, in fact, returning for the Purple and Gold next season.

Wildes isn't asking Westbrook to have his best season or be the franchise superstar but is requesting that he simply not be a liability. He focused on three of Westbrook's weaknesses, including free-throw and 3-point shooting, but emphasized his lack of defensive intensity. On "First Things First," Wildes said:

"Why doesn't Russ just look in the mirror and sort of play better? ... That is such a simple idea. ... So, here's the three simple things that Russell Westbrook can do. ... The third one is defense. ... He doesn't have to become Alex Caruso ... Literally, just pay attention to your man. You don't have to be Mr. 94 feet. Just pay attention to your man. Don't leave him open."

Westbrook has never been known for his defense, and at age 33, he has slowed down even further. His athleticism and movement has waned, and smaller and quicker players are blowing by him immediately. Moreover, he often doesn't contest the shot of the offensive player and is also late in transition.

Kevin Wildes digs into where Russell Westbrook needs to improve for the LA Lakers

Russell Westbrook of the LA Lakers shoots a 3-pointer.
Russell Westbrook of the LA Lakers shoots a 3-pointer.

Russell Westbrook certainly needs to be better if the LA Lakers wish to be competitive next season. He is not helping them on either end of the floor, and many Lakers fans have demanded that he be traded.

However, Kevin Wildes believes all Westbrook needs to do is improve a few simple things. He doesn't expect him to change his game in the offseason but is demanding a little more effort out of the former MVP.

Wildes mentioned the third point to be his defense, while his first two points were free-throw shooting and 3-point attempts. Wildes spoke about Westbrook's subpar shooting, saying:

"So here's the three simple things that Russell Westbrook can do. ... First one is stop shooting threes. Just stop. ... He shot 30% from three. Just eliminate those from your game. Get to the rim and either get fouled or finish."

Westbrook shot less 29.8% from 3-point range this season, and many of those attempts were either open or wide open. His defensive scouting report is literally daring him to shoot 3-pointers.

Wildes also touched on the topic of his poor free-throw shooting, suggesting that he should return to his old ways. Westbrook shot 66.7% from the charity stripe this season and was over 80% during his tenure at the OKC Thunder. In fact, he shot 84.5% from the foul line during his 2017 MVP season. Wildes pointed out that the sudden dip in free-throw conversion is mind-boggling. He said:

"Get to the rim and either get fouled or finish. And when you get fouled, make your free throws. Five years ago, Russell Westbrook shot 85% from the line. Last year, he shot 67%. Why? Because his athleticism waned? Did the line move? Is it the new ball? Was he just pro-Spalding, less Wilson? It makes no sense. Just go back and shoot well."

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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