Lakers-Wizards trade grades for Russell Westbrook blockbuster deal
The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook in exchange for a few key stars in a mega-deal with the Washington Wizards. In return, the Wizards are receiving Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The deal was initially unearthed hours before the 2021 NBA Draft when multiple reports came in that both organizations were seriously considering a huge swap. And, as soon as the draft started, both the Lakers and the Wizards put pen to paper and finalized the huge move that could potentially change both franchises moving forward.
How did both teams do in this trade?
Los Angeles Lakers: C+
The Lakers had a tough time defending their 2020 NBA title after an impressive playoff run in the NBA Bubble in Orlando. LeBron James and co. had a target on their backs the entire season and managed to hurdle through a lot of health concerns to be able to return to the postseason in the hopes of a back-to-back title.
Unfortunately, it was the lack of star power in the end that eventually cost the Lakers another title run. LeBron was playing at less than 100% almost the entire season while Davis strained his groin in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. Looking at it from that lens, it makes sense to add the 2017 Most Valuable Player as well as the league’s triple-double king in Westbrook.
What seems to have been lost in translation amid all the bright lights is the potential problems the Purple & Gold could face by adding another undeniable superstar in Russell Westbrook. By now, it’s no question that Westbrook is an offensive juggernaut with how he dominates the game whenever he has the ball. But, woefully, there’s a huge hole in his game which is his poor shooting – especially from the outside. Thing is, this is where the Lakers were also struggling from all season long and Westbrook’s addition, as well as KCP’s departure, could be problematic down the stretch.
Obviously, having two MVPs in your team will get you wins. Heck, this new trio of LeBron, AD, and Russ might even bring in another championship for LA. That being said, the team, as of right now at least, seems a bit top-heavy.
At the other end of the table, we have the Wizards who left quite an impression last season. Through Bradley Beal’s leadership, and the obvious insertion of Westbrook, Washington was able to salvage their 2020-21 campaign by climbing all the way to their first playoff since 2018.
It was Beal’s name who was being dragged around in the rumor mill over these past few weeks which makes this Westbrook move a bit of a surprise. But, if I’m rooting for the Wizards, this actually is quite a solid move. As much as the DC faithful loved the fiery combination of Beal and Brodie, everyone knew that that tandem’s ceiling wasn’t quite high.
Clearly, the Wizards will lose a ton of market value by parting ways with one of the league’s biggest stars in Westbrook but, more importantly, this huge move from the franchise should give Bradley Beal all the confidence in the world that the organization is all-in on developing a team around him. Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma, and Harrell bring a lot to the table. It also gives young stars like Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura more space to ball out and hopefully develop into bonafide superstars.
After that huge move, the Wizards weren’t done dealing on Draft Day. With the 22nd pick acquired from LA, the Wizards front office put their head down and immediately went to work. In another bold move, Washington sent that pick (which ended up being young big man Isaiah Jackson) to the Indiana Pacers for third-year guard Aaron Holiday. Now that’s a promising team right there.