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Sources - Los Angeles Lakers reach deal to acquire Russell Westbrook, sending 3-player package and pick to Washington Wizards
30 July, 2021 - 08:30am
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The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to a deal with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the No. 22 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Wizards are sending 2024 and 2028 second-round picks to the Lakers to complete the deal, sources said.
The No. 22 pick was used on Isaiah Jackson, but the Kentucky forward will be traded to the Indiana Pacers, with the Wizards acquiring veteran point guard Aaron Holiday and the No. 31 pick in return, sources told Wojnarowski.
Harrell opted into his $9.7 million player option for next season earlier Thursday, paving the way for the Westbrook trade.
Westbrook will join LeBron James, Anthony Davis & Co. in Los Angeles, giving the team a nine-time All-Star point guard. Westbrook, who turns 33 in November, has averaged a triple-double in a season four times in his career, including this past season. He gives the Lakers two of the top five players in career triple-doubles: Westbrook has 184, James 99.
The Lakers will be Westbrook's fourth team in as many seasons. He will be the fifth former MVP to play for four different franchises in a span of four season or fewer, joing Bob McAdoo, Shaquille O'Neal, Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose, per Elias Sports Bureau.
The Wizards had acquired Westbrook from the Rockets last December as part of the John Wall deal. In his first and only season in Washington, he averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 11.7 assists, although he shot just 43.9% from the floor and 31.5% from 3.
While the trade can't officially be announced until Aug. 6, when the salary cap becomes official, Westbrook penned a goodbye to D.C. on social media Thursday night.
"Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one," he wrote. "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. I'm blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn't take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you! #thedistrict."
Westbrook's playmaking ability can help the Lakers. L.A. ranked 18th in points per game created off assists in 2020-21. Westbrook has led the NBA in that category in three of the past four seasons, with the lone exception being the year he spent with James Harden in Houston.
Dennis Schroder ran the point for the Lakers this past season, but he turned down the maximum extension the Lakers were eligible to offer him during the regular season to pursue a more lucrative deal as a free agent this summer.
Westbrook, who is from Southern California and played at UCLA, has been intrigued by the idea of returning to his Los Angeles roots, sources said. He's owed $44.2 million this season; the Westbrook-James-Davis trio would combine to earn $121 million in 2021-22 -- 19 entire teams will earn less heading into free agency.
Want to forecast where your favorite NBA stars could wind up? Create your own deals with ESPN's Trade Machine.
As for Washington, the deal was made with Bradley Beal in mind; it creates some salary-cap flexibility for the future to add talent around the star guard, sources told Wojnarowski. Beal is entering the last year of his contract and is poised to be a free agent next offseason.
The trade would open up north of $25 million in room for Washington in 2022-23.
News of the deal had an immediate impact at sportsbooks. Per Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, the Lakers moved from 4-1 to +350 to win the NBA title. The Brooklyn Nets are +225 favorites.
Westbrook, meanwhile, is the +110 favorite to be the NBA assist leader.
30 July, 2021 - 08:30am
He plays with an inextinguishable fire. He’s fearless. He’s determined. He’s relentlessly tough.
Russell Westbrook is a Laker. All of him.
In a stunning trade completed on Thursday, the Lakers added a former Most Valuable Player, a nine-time All-Star and a triple-double machine. They also got one of the most enigmatic and polarizing players in league history, a star with such obvious shortcomings in such major areas that historians will struggle to contextualize Westbrook’s greatness for eternity.
Westbrook’s motto is “Why not?” But when it comes to this trade, there are some pretty strong reasons to ask 'Why?'
The things that Westbrook isn’t – notably, even a passable three-point shooter – have to be considered problematic for the Lakers as they attempt to extract the most out of LeBron James’ twilit prime. The conventional wisdom for years has been to surround James with shooters, create space for driving and passing lanes and feast on the open looks.
By adding Westbrook, the Lakers have given defenses an excuse to even further pack the paint, clogging things up not only for James, but also for Anthony Davis (and for Westbrook himself). In sending Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out, the Lakers also shrunk the court by removing two of their more competent floor spacers.
The Lakers know all this. They, in fact, guarded Westbrook this way in the playoffs last summer , sagging to the outer banks of Disney World and watching him go seven for 27 from beyond the arc in their series with the Rockets.
Shooting will have to be a priority in free agency, and it’ll have to be a priority in development. If the Lakers are able to re-sign Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker, the team will need Caruso to continue his upward trend from three-point range and for Horton-Tucker to begin his.
In its search to pair another star around James and Davis, a desire undoubtedly driven by James’ desire to upgrade the Lakers’ top-end talent, the franchise was linked to players that included virtually every perceived star on either the trade or free-agent market.
Ideally, finding someone more suited to be complementary to James and Davis would’ve been best. The Lakers could’ve prioritized defense and shooting. Kyle Lowry could’ve given them that, though they missed their best chance with him last season at the trade deadline. Lonzo Ball (remember him) seems destined to play alongside ball-dominant stars, but there was no clear pathway to him either.
Instead, they land a player who is a gravitational force, who is at his best when he’s the center of his team’s universe.
No one has ever filled a stat sheet like Westbrook. He has almost 50 more career triple-doubles than Magic Johnson and the most in league history.
The reality, though, was that the Lakers’ inability to offer teams much of value limited their shopping list. And the solution was always going to be an imperfect one.
And the imperfections are glaring. But Westbrook’s other, equally obvious attributes – his seemingly unending gas tank, his work ethic, his on-court ferocity – they line up with the culture the Lakers say they want to build.
If fully engaged, Westbrook, James and Davis can be a nightmare for other offenses, three star players with supreme athleticism and physicality. And a defense-first, lousy three-point shooting team has already been a successful recipe for the Lakers (winning them the 2020 NBA Championship thanks to a few weeks of hot-enough shooting).
Additionally, Westbrook is more than capable of carrying the offensive load for stretches if the Lakers need to manage James' load. They’d hoped Dennis Schroder could be this player last season, and the returns were mixed at best.
Still, it’s all just strange, the Lakers adding talent while somehow making their biggest weaknesses even worse.
So, the Lakers will be weird. They’ll have talent at the top, a mostly empty roster below, a big shrugged-shoulders emoji approach to tomorrow.
Sentimentally, the move brings Westbrook back to Los Angeles 20 years or so after he was just a lanky kid with huge feet sitting inside a classroom at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale.
“His feet would be hanging out in the aisle, and I’d joke and tell him to be careful because he’s going to trip somebody,” his freshman English teacher, Dr. Pamela Brown, once said. “Eventually, he grew into them.”
It’s too early to tell if the Lakers grow back into champions after this trade. The “what’s next” portion of this will be critical. Rob Pelinka has a lot of work to do, the team shopping on a tight budget for the rest of their roster.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the Lakers' 22nd pick in Thursday's draft, ESPN reported. The blockbuster deal will see the Southern California native who played for UCLA return to his roots and join forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis to create the NBA's latest big three.
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The Wizards are trading starting point guard Russell Westbrook to the Lakers.
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30 July, 2021 - 07:58am
The Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards shook up the NBA with a draft night blockbuster. The Lakers sent Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 pick to the Wizards in exchange for the NBA’s all-time triple-double leader, Russell Westbrook.
While I haven’t seen any paperwork, I think we can assume it’s official:
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
Before we break down the deal, it’s worth noting: Lakers GM Rob Pelinka is just getting started. Free agency opens on Monday — the Lakers have nine remaining free agents from the 2020-21 roster — and the Westbrook splash did not address (and, in fact, exacerbated) Los Angeles’ three-point shooting woes.
The Westbrook trade likely rules out the re-signing of Dennis Schroder, unless he pulls a full 180 and agrees to play Sixth Man on a bargain. Assuming that doesn’t happen, whether the Lakers let him walk for nothing or find a sign-and-trade partner could influence every ensuing decision this month.
The Lakers did want to retain free agent guards Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker, each of whom could fetch $10 million in 2021-22, though it’s unclear — at this moment — how the Westbrook addition affects their interest and ability to doing so (THT is the Klutch client). Los Angeles can exceed the cap to retain both, though not without complications and stiff luxury tax penalties.
With the 2017 MVP in tow, it’s possible the Lakers’ thinking on Caruso has shifted, especially if they can’t land a sharpshooting two-guard via Schroder sign-and-trade. The Lakers were reportedly close to a deal for Buddy Hield — one of the world’s best snipers — but I’m not sure why the Kings would take (and pay) Schroder, a 2027 first-round pick, and various second-rounders for Hield considering the young backcourt in Sacramento (Schroder would also have to forego free agency to agree to the deal). Hield is under a reasonable contract for three more seasons. Let’s rule that out.
As for Westbrook and the Lakers — whew. A lot to digest. Let’s take a breath and break it down a bit.
First of all, the blockbuster should not come as a total surprise. Westbrook is a Long Beach native who played at UCLA, idolized Kobe Bryant, and owns the unabashed fandom of LeBron James. Buzz had been buzzing.
Westbrook and LeBron when they’re one assist shy of a triple double pic.twitter.com/EJlcEMKybO
— Jimmy (@jimmy_koski) July 30, 2021
Plus, according to…NBA history: stars like to play with proven stars, regardless of Second Spectrum data or Twitter takes. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are always consulted on major moves (ahem, Green Bay Packers) — and there’s simply no way a shake-up of this magnitude gets greenlit without their emphatic endorsement.
Fiscally, the Lakers will be on the hook for Westbrook’s $44 million in 2021-22, and his $47 million (!) player-option for his 15th season, when he’ll be a ripe 34 years old. With Bird rights and a prodigal luxury tax approach, the Lakers could certainly see that contract through. Hopefully, for the Lakers, hometown kid would forego the option and re-work his deal at a lower annual cost, a la Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns. (Westbrook grew up five minutes from the Lakers’ El Segundo practice facility.)
As of this precise moment on the timeline, the Lakers have Russ ($44M), LeBron ($41M), AD ($35M), and Marc Gasol ($2.6M) on the books for next season…and that’s it, assuming they pass on Alfonzo McKinnie’s $1.9M team option. Including Luol Deng’s $5M check, the Lakers cap sheet amounts to $127.6M — more than $15M over the cap and about $16M under the hard cap threshold (the “tax apron”).
Los Angeles can exceed the cap to retain Talen Horton-Tucker, due for up to $10 million (at most) in 2020-21 at the front of a hefty back-loaded deal. That brings them to $137.6M. At that point, they would be unable to re-sign Alex Caruso for the full mid-level exception (also about $10 million), which would trigger a hard cap. Caruso could take the non-taxpayer midlevel ($5.9M), though that would be awfully generous of him.
If he’s willing to take less than the MLE and far less than what, say, the Cleveland Cavaliers may offer, the Lakers could keep their cult hero with Bird rights. Ideally, both Caruso and THT would take discounts to stay in L.A.
DeMar DeRozan may still seek the Lakers’ full-midlevel.
If they avoid triggering the hard cap, the Lakers can retain or pick up any number of vets at the minimum — Wesley Matthews, Markieff Morris, Jared Dudley, Dwight Howard, Jeff Green, Carmelo Anthony. With a hard cap, they simply can’t exceed $143M for any reason, including mid-season buyouts.
#LakersTwitter will be polarized on Westbrook, and it’s impossible to truly assess the move until the playoffs. But, losing either THT or Caruso — exceedingly more likely now — will hurt, in their hearts and on the hardwood.
The Lakers’ two stated priorities this offseason were upgrading their perimeter play-making and spacing/shooting. Westbrook, an infamously horrid three-point shooter, checks one of those boxes.
Frankly, there isn’t a neat statistical case supporting the Westbrook addition; which, admittedly, is an ironic thing to say about someone who has averaged a triple-double in four of the past five seasons, including 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists in 2020-21.
Yet, Brodie’s ultimate advantage as an NBA superstar is his 110% effort when everybody else is going through the motions, and that advantage neutralizes in the postseason when everybody is giving their all. In 111 playoff games, he’s averaged nearly four turnovers per game, shot a hair over 40%, and has reached the conference finals twice. It’s not that he can’t go up a level in the playoffs, it’s just that he hasn’t.
Troublingly, he’s shot 70.4% from the foul line over the past four seasons after hitting 82.3% of his free throws for the first nine years of his NBA career.
Evaluation of this trade will not come in November, or January, or March, regardless of box scores, transition alley-oops, or triple-doubles. For the Lakers, there is one ring to rule them all, and what happens in the regular season will all be an appetizer for the playoffs.
On the flip side, Westbrook’s regular season impact is a guarantee, efficiency stats aside. On a game-to-game basis, he’ll produce more than the supporting pieces the Lakers sent to D.C. For AD and especially LeBron, the idea of having an inspiring and indefatigable teammate like Westbrook to carry the load — emotionally, physically, and ball-handling-wise — will pay dividends. How valuable? Remains to be seen.
At the very least, Russ is a super-charged Dennis Schroder — equally mediocre beyond the arc but more impactful by sheer force of will, even if every defensive slide isn’t as on point.
One thing is for certain: We’ll learn a lot more about the efficacy of this trade next week … and then again in May.
Like it or not: the stars always end up in Hollywood.
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