The 2021 NBA Draft was on Thursday, but perhaps the biggest news of the day wasn’t about a pick. Ahead of the draft, the Washington Wizards agreed to trade Russell Westbrook and two future second-round picks to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the No. 22 overall pick.
All of a sudden the Lakers, who were already a contender, became one of the most fascinating teams heading into next season. How will Westbrook, one of the most ball-dominant players the league has ever seen, fit in on a team with LeBron James and Anthony Davis? No one is quite sure, but everyone wants to find out.
For what it’s worth, the players have faith it will work out and agreed to put their egos aside in a meeting they had weeks ago about the possibility of Westbrook coming to Los Angeles. Via the Los Angeles Times:
About two weeks ago, Russell Westbrook went to LeBron James’ home and together they and Anthony Davis had a conversation about the All-Star guard joining James and Davis on the Lakers.
They talked about putting their egos aside and playing as one in their quest to bring the Lakers another NBA championship. Westbrook talked about how his only intention was winning and coming back home to Los Angeles to become a champion.
James and Davis talked about the two of them changing positions if that was best for the team — James moving from small forward to power forward and Davis from power forward to center.
This all sounds great on paper, and obviously, the players are going to believe in their ability to make it work. For good reason as well considering LeBron and Davis are two of the 10 best players in the league, and Westbrook is still an All-Star and a former MVP.
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The Lakers are at their best when Davis plays center — though to be honest he probably shouldn’t spend too much time there during the regular season in order to keep him healthy for the playoffs — and we saw Westbrook have success as an off-ball menace with the Rockets just a few years ago. This is one of the most talented trios in the league, so it won’t be some sort of miracle if they’re able to make things work.
At the same time, there are definitely some real questions. Assuming Westbrook will be off the ball most of the time when the big three are playing together, how does his lack of an outside shot affect the spacing around LeBron and Davis? How will the Lakers fill out the rest of their roster now that they have a whopping $110 million committed to just three players? If some of Westbrook’s flaws start negatively impacting the team, how much patience will LeBron have in the experiment?
Regardless of the answers that we get to these questions, it’s going to be super interesting to watch it all play out.