Thursday night was the 2021 NBA Draft where 60 prospects found out where they would be beginning their professional careers. However, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to take some attention away from the draft as they pulled off a blockbuster trade that has already affect next year’s NBA Championship odds.
The Lakers acquired superstar guard Russell Westbrook and two future second-round picks from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the 22nd overall pick at last night’s draft (which was later traded to the Indiana Pacers for Aaron Holiday and Pick No. 31).
Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game with the Wizards in 2020-21 while also breaking Oscar Robertson’s legendary triple-double record. Bringing in a player of Westbrook’s caliber was necessary for the Lakers when it comes to their NBA Championship aspirations. Last season proved that LeBron James and Anthony Davis needed that third guy to depend on, especially when that duo is off the floor. Fortunately, Westbrook has been one of the best point guards of the last decade and should help elevate Los Angeles back up the standings.
Another important aspect of this trade is that it’s essentially a homecoming for Westbrook. He was born in Long Beach, California and even attended UCLA for his college basketball. He already owns homes in the Los Angeles area, so it’s only fitting to return to the place where his love for basketball began. Only time will tell if he can deliver.
Westbrook has two years and just over $91 million remaining on his current contract.
Lakers NBA Championship Odds Increase After Trade
As mentioned before, one of the main reasons why the Lakers pulled off this deal is that the team wanted to improve its chance at winning an NBA Championship next season. After all, James didn’t sign in Los Angeles just to win one title before riding out the rest of his career. Nevertheless, acquiring Westbrook certainly accomplished this task as the Lakers are now favored to win the 2021-22 NBA Championship at +300 odds, according to BetOnline. That’s pretty significant considering how Los Angeles had the second-best odds in mid-July at +450.
The truth is that a third star was exactly what the Lakers needed last season. When James and Davis were injured at the same time, the team began to slide down the Western Conference standings. After being one of the top seeds early in the campaign, the Lakers began the playoffs as the No. 7 seed, which obviously didn’t work out well as their NBA Championship dreams were squashed by the Phoenix Suns in Round 1.
Even when James and Davis are in the lineup, that doesn’t change the fact that they needed someone to take pressure off them. With Westbrook playing with them, head coach Frank Vogel can rest the aforementioned stars without worrying that there won’t be anyone left to generate offense. Now, James and Davis can rest more often, which means they should have more energy once the postseason arrives. If that’s the case, it’ll be difficult for any team to match up against a superstar trio like that.
Some people may be concerned about what spacing will look like when the three of them are on the floor, but that shouldn’t be too worrying. Star players make things work if they want something bad enough. Westbrook having a legitimate shot at the 2021-22 NBA Championship should see him getting along just fine with James, Davis and the rest of the Lakers.