The Los Angeles Lakers were in dire need of a difference-making playmaking guard, so vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka went out and completed the second blockbuster deal under his watch as he traded for Russell Westbrook.
In the deal, the Lakers sent out Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and their 2021 first-round draft pick for the All-Star guard and two second-round picks from the Washington Wizards. Talks between the two teams gained traction throughout the week and ultimately ended with Westbrook heading back home to Los Angeles.
With Los Angeles trading most of their assets for Westbrook, it limits any future deals, and according to Broderick Turner of Los Angeles Times, it took them out of the running to acquire DeMar DeRozan:
San Antonio Spurs unrestricted free agent DeMar DeRozan was in talks with James, sources said, but the Westbrook deal eliminated that option because it would have required a sign-and-trade scenario and a Kuzma inclusion.
The San Antonio Spurs have been linked to Kuzma since the 2017 NBA Draft when they were rumored to be eyeing them with their first-round selection and would have been the logical centerpiece of a DeRozan-Kuzma swap. DeRozan is a free agent this offseason and will likely demand more than the taxpayer’s mid-level exception that the Lakers have to offer, making a sign-and-trade the only path for L.A. to get him.
DeRozan would have also filled the playmaking and scoring void on the Lakers roster, but it appears as though James and Anthony Davis preferred to chase after Westbrook after he reportedly met with them to discuss possibly teaming up. It is surely a gamble but could pay off if the three stars can work it out on the court.
Russell Westbrook addition makes Lakers favorites for 2022 NBA Title
With Westbrook joining James and Davis in Los Angeles, the Lakers now boast one of the most talented trios in the NBA. Despite Westbrook’s flaws as a shooter and defender, his addition made the Lakers the odds-on favorites to win the 2022 NBA Championship, leapfrogging the Brooklyn Nets, who were the original favorites.