On Thursday afternoon, talk of the Washington Wizards trading triple double machine Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers started heating up.
By time the 2021 NBA Draft began, the trade was complete.
Westbrook was going back home, off to join Lebron James and Anthony Davis. In return, the Wizards get Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the No. 22 pick in the draft.
The trade won’t be finalized until August 6th, when the new league salary cap begins.
The deal gives the Lakers a Big Three under contract through at least 2023 and an infusion of star power rivaled only by Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference.
— ESPN (@espn) July 30, 2021
Immediately opinions begin to fly like grits from the pan. The bigger question is whether or not LeBron, AD and Westbrook — a trio with 34 combined All-Star appearances between them — can mesh well enough to become a true contender.
The Lakers will be Westbrook’s fourth team in three years, after being traded by Oklahoma City and Houston in the previous two offseasons.
He kind of found his mojo and all-world desire again in DC.
Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one. Everyone from the front office, to the training staff, the coaches, my teammates, and the fans. I’m grateful y’all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way. pic.twitter.com/wTvHQHPIOU
— Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) July 30, 2021
The former UCLA standout averaged a triple-double last season (22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists) in his only season in DC.
His late season surge helped push the Wizards into the eighth playoff spot. He’s averaged a triple-double in four of the last five seasons, passing Oscar Robertson for most triple-doubles ever (184).
Russ also led the league in assists in three of the last four seasons as well. We all know the stats now it’s about being able to gel which is something Westbrook has fallen short with continuously.
Westbrook gives LeBron and AD — the All-Stars he planned this union with weeks ago — an additional dynamic playmaker as well as one of the league’s most athletic guards. His erratic shooting must improve especially in crunch time.
LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis got together at LeBron’s house two weeks ago and agreed to set aside their egos and focus on winning a championship in LA. Per @BA_Turner pic.twitter.com/CDhidtvHxv
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) July 30, 2021
The Lakers will need floor spacing for LBJ and AD, something they sorely lacked this past season, following their title win coming in the “NBA Bubble.”
Russ brings a breadth of playoff experience, starting 111 games in the postseason and losing his only Finals appearance to James and the Miami Heat.
But in four of his last five playoff berths, his teams have failed to advance past the first round.
Adding Westbrook also complicates the Lakers’ payroll as he’s scheduled to make $44.2 million this season and he has a $47.1 million player option for the 2022-23 season.
Combined with max-contract deals on the books for James and Davis, the Lakers will face limited options to add free agent talent under the salary cap while vaulting themselves well into the luxury tax.
Pieces around Bron and Davis are already getting thinner with the aforementioned Kuz, Harrell, and KCP all being moved to acquire Westbrook.
Despite the obvious holes, some pundits are already crowning the 2022 Lakers.
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) July 30, 2021
So while this is a great move for star power in Tinseltown, they’ll need to add some viable pieces in free agency with limited resources to complete the makeup of a championship roster.