Russell Westbrook Traded to LA
The Washington Wizards have traded Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers for a return of Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and second-round picks in 2024 and 2028. Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds in his lone season in Washington.
LA had been engaged with the Sacramento Kings over a deal involving Kuzma and Harrell for Buddy Hield, but the opportunity to grab one of the best point guards of all time took priority. Westbrook will team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on a squad that is practically guaranteed to be Western Conference favorites, while the trio of former Lakers will join Bradley Beal in Washington, giving the Wizards freedom in the cap and three veteran contributors.
Rumors surrounding Westbrook and the Lakers only kicked up this week and suddenly, he has been traded to the purple and gold. “Brodie” will be wearing his fourth jersey in three years, marking the first time that a former MVP has been traded in three consecutive seasons.
Meanwhile, the Lakers had been desperate to get off of Kyle Kuzma, who reportedly had been “offered to nearly every team”; Harrell, the once-removed Sixth Man of the Year, also found himself out of the rotation after Andre Drummond’s midseason arrival, falling behind Marc Gasol in the fight for minutes at backup center.
The Lakers’ New-Look Roster
KCP was the Lakers’ only sharpshooter and had championship experience and will be missed, though he will be accepted in Washington.
This deal also foreshadows an exit for Dennis Schroder, who declined a four-year, $84 million extension in March.
The next step for the Lakers is to add shooters around their quarter of stars (assuming they re-sign Drummond); Westbrook, LeBron, Davis, and Drummond shot a combined 32.4% from beyond the arc last season and will need a fifth starter as well as key bench players that will be able to come in and knock down open shots.
The Lakers had a disappointing conclusion to their season this summer, getting bounced in the first round in six games by the #2 Phoenix Suns who they treated with little-to-no respect; James and Davis were injured for long stretches to close the campaign and should be back with a vengeance after time to rest and recover.
As far as Westbrook’s arrival, he adds intangibles that LA did not have before— he is an all-out hustler that can score, rebound, and assist the ball with extreme speed and athleticism. He can get downhill even in half-court situations, which will not be affected by the Lakers’ slower, more deliberate pace of play.
The Lakers’ new point guard will command over $44 million in salary this season, giving them just over $8 million in wiggle room before they encroach the salary cap (note: this does not include a new deal for Andre Drummond). Reports before the trade indicated that there were “plenty” of veterans willing to sign at the minimum, and this should be furthered by the arrival of a former league MVP.
Where Do the Wizards Go From Here?
The next step for the Wizards, meanwhile, will be to grab a quality free agent with the cap space they created; rumors surrounding Spencer Dinwiddie have garnered the most buzz, though that was before the trade went through. Washington will likely be in a position to compete for a playoff spot with Bradley Beal back as the clear number-one, fresh off of a season in which he averaged over 30 points per game.
The shape of the NBA landscape has officially shifted, and the Lakers are once again the center of attention. Westbrook’s fit remains to be seen, but the purple and gold will be must-see television every time they suit up.
Expect more trades to go through as teams respond and retool their rosters to cope with the star power that resides on the West Coast— the offseason madness is only just beginning.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.