It’s official: the Los Angeles Lakers just got themselves a Big Three.
After falling short in their hunt for a second straight NBA championship, many believe the Lakers would be going after DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Damian Lillard. Reports have been coming out left and right that the Lakers were in deep talks with the Sacramento Kings about a Buddy Hield-centered trade.
The Lakers were reportedly close to acquiring Hield in exchange for Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell.
And then, there’s the possibility of Chris Paul joining LeBron James in Hollywood.
Now, the Lakers have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook on their roster.
How did it happen?
The Lakers sent Kontavious Cardwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harell to the Washington Wizards in exchange for the 2017 NBA MVP in Russell Westbrook. The deal also included the Lakers sending the 22nd pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to Washington.
Meanwhile, Washington also sent a 2024 second-round pick and a 2028 second-round pick to Hollywood.
Let’s start with the clear winners.
The Lakers lacked a consistent third star during the 2020-2021 regular season. LeBron James averaged 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, while Anthony Davis normed 21 points, seven rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Dennis Schroder was impressive in his first and possibly only run with the Lakers as he normed 15 points, five assists, and 1.1 steals.
The problem is: Schroder wants a bigger paycheck.
With Westbrook already bound for Los Angeles, this takes off the pressure from the Lakers in trying to work a deal for Dennis Schroder’s return.
A guy of Westbrook’s caliber would work wonders for the Lakers as they try to return to championship glory anew. In his one-and-done run in Washington, Russell Westbrook averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists- marking the fourth time in five seasons that he averaged a triple-double in a season.
Another reason why the Lakers are clear the winner in this deal: They found a trade partner that would gamble on Kyle Kuzma.
While Kuzma had his moments with the Lakers, his inconsistencies in both games hurt the Lakers’ chances of a two-peat, especially when LeBron and Davis went down with injuries.
Without a doubt, the King is a big winner in this trade.
Russell Westbrook being an MVP gives LeBron James another superstar teammate to help him carry the Lakers back to championship glory. While Westbrook’s three-point shooting is a downside that the Lakers need to work around, there is more to Westbrook that LeBron James can use to the team’s advantage.
More importantly, Westbrook can take a big chunk of the scoring load away from LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
On paper, the Lakers, with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, would be an unstoppable force in the Western Conference. If healthy in the long run, this trio could carry the Lakers back to the NBA Finals in 2022. They could combine for 70 points on a nightly basis.
However, this trio could face issues that they need to resolve as soon as they start training.
For one, the Lakers only shot 35% from the three-point line during the 2020-2021 campaign. Adding an equally struggling Russell Westbrook would mean more attempts from downtown. If Westbrook can improve his shooting efficiency, that would be a big help for the Purple and Gold.
The Lakers also struggled with chemistry issues last year due to the numerous roster changes they underwent during the 2020 offseason. It will be interesting to see how the chemistry would work in the team with Westbrook in it.
While acquiring Russell Westbrook is a big win for the Lakers, he can only contribute IF he stays healthy in the long run. If there’s one important lesson we’ve learned from last season, it’s not about who has the most firepower. It’s simply about who stays healthy the longest.