Lakers spurning Spurs' DeRozan for Westbrook was a big fail

LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan
LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan / Harry How/GettyImages

According to a report, the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers were close to a sign-and-trade package involving DeMar DeRozan -- until Russell Westbrook was made available.

The story came from former Spurs beat writer and current Yahoo! Sports columnist Chris Haynes on Tuesday. Saying DeRozan had multiple conversations with LeBron James over the summer, Haynes details how DeRozan believed the trade to send him to Los Angeles "was a done deal."

"A couple of things didn't align," said DeRozan in an interview. "They went with what they felt was best for them. No hard feelings, no animosity."

DeMar certainly didn't take it easy on the team that passed him up on Monday, scoring 38 points in an 18-point Bulls win in front of the Staples Center crowd. The performance served as an early reminder that DeRozan is still very much a premiere talent in the NBA and has been for the past decade.

The report states DeMar's agent pivoted to the Chicago Bulls once the Lakers "silently began exploring another route once Russell Westbrook was made available." Early indications are that was a severe misstep.

The Los Angeles Lakers blew it by choosing Westbrook over DeRozan

The Lakers' early struggles are undoubtedly due mostly to the extended absence of LeBron James, but it's hard to believe DeMar DeRozan wouldn't have been a much better fit in their system nonetheless.

Given how much he dominates the ball, Russell Westbrook is always going to average near a triple-double, but when does that truly translate to team success? His numbers are certainly impressive and he'll rightfully be a Hall of Famer when it's all said and done, but his start with the Lakers has been far from impressive.

Westbrook is shooting just 42.7% from the field and 29.2% from the 3-point line through 15 games. Unfortunately, his career percentages aren't much higher than those. Russell's effectiveness is predicated on volume, and that's not exactly what the Lakers will need with scorers like James, Anthony Davis, and Carmelo Anthony already on the roster.

There's some bias in here of watching numerous clashes between the Thunder and Spurs, but I always found myself rooting for Westbrook to have the ball in his hands in late-game situations because it always seemed like he made the wrong play. So far, that's proving to be true in Los Angeles, as he's 0-for-4 from downtown and has the most turnovers of anyone in the NBA (9) in clutch situations.

Meanwhile, DeMar DeRozan has been one of the most clutch performers in the league throughout his career and is having his best scoring season since 2016-17.

The biggest difference between Westbrook lies in efficiency. It's taking DeRozan 18.8 attempts per game to average 26.9 points while Russell shoots 17.3 times to average 19.4. The Lakers simply can't afford for Westbrook to shoot that many shots with such a low efficiency.

Westbrook's turnovers are also out of control, as he's the only player in the NBA this season averaging over five per game (5.3). The Lakers, meanwhile, are 29th in the league in committing turnovers, coughing the ball up an average of 17.3 times. The last time anyone averaged five or more? James Harden in 2018-19.

Next. Spurs' Top 2022 Draft Prospects to Watch. dark

No one knows who the Lakers would've sent to San Antonio for DeRozan, although a package like Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope works out on paper. That would've been a small price to pay to bring in a proven scorer and hometown guy. Instead, they might find themselves wondering 'what if' for years.