The Los Angeles Lakers used NBA Draft day to pull off a blockbuster trade, acquiring former MVP Russell Westbrook in a multi-player trade with the Washington Wizards.
In return for Westbrook, Washington receives Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the 22nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Said selection turned into veteran guard Aaron Holiday and the 31st pick in a separate trade with the Indiana Pacers.
This is obviously a win-now move for the 2020 champions after an ugly first-round departure in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Westbrook, 32, averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists in his first and only season with Washington. As for the Wizards, they add depth to the mix to go with Bradley Beal. Below, we look at the winners and losers from this blockbuster trade.
Winner: Bradley Beal
As reports of a potential Westbrook trade to Los Angeles broke, it became rather clear that Beal was not happy about his one-year marriage with the former NBA MVP. Suggestions were that this move might very well extend Beal’s tenure in D.C.
At initial glance, that makes very little sense. While Westbrook has limitations at this stage in his career, he’s better than any of the three players Washington brought back. However, the blockbuster trade also gives general manager Tommy Sheppard more flexibility to upgrade behind Beal on the roster. Free-agent Spencer Dinwiddie is one option. Either way, Beal is the unquestioned face of the Wizards’ organization. That became rather clear with him seemingly having some say in the blockbuster Westbrook trade to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Loser: Spacing with the Los Angeles Lakers
The box score scouts in us wants to love this trade from Los Angeles’ perspective. Three future Hall of Famers on the same team together. It makes sense to an extent with the Lakers obviously in win-now mode. But from a pure on-court perspective, this seems to be an iffy fit.
Westbrook is a career 31% three-point shooter throughout his 13-year tenure in the NBA. After excelling in that regard in the Orlando bubble during the 2019-20 season, Davis fell back to earth this past year (26% from distance). Sure King James is hitting on 35% of his threes during a Hall of Fame career, but this brings up questions about perimeter shooter. The goal now will be for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka to add veteran shooters to the mix moving forward this summer.
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers “general manager” LeBron James
Whether it was teaming up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami or helping orchestrate the trade for Kevin Love in his return to Cleveland, James has acted the part of a quasi general manager throughout his career. Heck, the Lakers’ acquisition of Anthony Davis ahead of the 2019-20 season had James written all over it.
While the four-time NBA champion has mixed results when chiming in on personnel moves, it’s clear that he still boasts the power to make things happen. It will be interesting to see if James is proven right this time around, because, the Westbrook trade also had him written all over it.
Loser: Kyle Kuzma
It’s usually great when a young player has an inflated view of himself. Confidence is a necessity when it comes to excelling in the Association. With that said, the reports we heard surrounding Kuzma ahead of his trade from the Los Angeles Lakers have to be seen as concerning.
“I think that Kyle Kuzma perceives himself as someone like Jayson Tatum,” Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus noted earlier in July.
Jayson Tatum? This Jayson Tatum? What in the world? Enter expletive here. Kuzma’s claim to fame is averaging 18.7 points for a 37-win Los Angeles Lakers team back in 2018-19. Once James and Davis joined the roster, he took a step back. Good luck proving that playing with those two was holding you back, kind sir.
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Author: Vincent Frank