It was just going to be another routine NBA trade. The Washington Wizards wanted to send Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers for three players and a first-round draft pick. Besides Westbrook, Washington committed two second-round choices. But before they could contain the experiment to the laboratory, it escaped.
As it ran amok, the trade grew and grew and grew. The deal can’t become official until Aug. 6. By the time we get there, this trade might have stomped Tokyo into oblivion while simultaneously demolishing the only two American cities that ever have disasters (at least in the movies), LA and New York.
As it stands, five teams are involved in the swap-a-palooza. If that seems like a big deal, it is. On more than one front.
It started with Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, then it got weird
A second trade on the night of the 2021 NBA Draft brought the tally of teams involved to three. The Indiana Pacers sent Aaron Holiday and a second-round pick to the Wizards for the No. 22 overall pick from the Lakers.
When Spencer Dinwiddie decided he liked Washington’s free-agent offer, that brought Brooklyn to the table. And wherever Brooklyn goes, San Antonio seems soon to follow. The Nets and Wizards agreed to a sign-and-trade. Dinwiddie goes to Washington. The Wizards ship Chandler Hutchinson and a 2022 second-round pick to the Spurs. The Nets get a 2024 second-rounder from Washington along with a 2025 pick swap and a trade exception.
Adding Dinwiddie and the Nets will cost the Wizards another second-round pick going to LA. The Lakers weren’t thrilled about helping the Nets in the same deal in which they were trying to beat Brooklyn.
Provided it doesn’t morph again, the trade swelled to five teams, seven players, seven draft picks (one that moved twice), and a pick swap.
All of this just to get Russell Westbrook to the LA Lakers. If they could have gotten three more players involved in the trade, some restaurant chain almost surely would have offered a discount. As it is, the Wizards-Lakers-Pacers-Nets-Spurs (no harm came to any Timberwolves, Bulls or Bucks during the filming of this transaction) is just the second five-team trade in NBA history.
Westbrook-to-the-Lakers pales in comparison to the mother of all trades
A little more than 16 years ago, five NBA teams came together for a first-of-its-kind trade
On Aug. 2, 2005, Russell Westbrook was awaiting his senior year at Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, California, a little less than an hour south of LA. About six weeks prior, the Lakers lured Phil Jackson back to coach the team after a 34-win debacle in 2004–05.
But Aug. 2, 2005, was also the day the NBA’s first five-team trade became a reality. The Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, and New Orleans Hornets played roles. The transaction was not as heavy on draft picks as the Westbrook-Lakers swap. But it included a record of 13 players.
The Heat got Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, James Posey, Andre Emmett, and Robert Duenas (draft rights at least). The Celtics picked up Qyntel Woods, Curtis Borchardt, Albert Miralles (draft rights), and two second-round picks.
Memphis ended up with Eddie Jones and Raul Lopez, and Greg Ostertag went back to Utah. The Hornets wound up with Rasual Butler and Kirk Snyder.
If it looks like Miami came out on top in the deal, that’s because it did. Walker, Williams, and Posey picked up championship rings the following season.
Lakers trade for star players regularly
Russell Westbrook is not the first star player acquired in a trade by the Lakers. Not even close. Sometimes those trades have worked, but sometimes they were colossal mistakes.
Getting Wilt Chamberlain from the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968 was a win. But the first time the Dwight Howard tour came to LA in 2012? Not so much. The Steve Nash sign-and-trade the same year didn’t play well in Hollywood, either.
The 1975 trade that brought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the Milwaukee Bucks was at least a bit of a win. Acquiring Pau Gasol at the deadline in 2008 led to three straight Finals trips.
But the Lakers have also gotten fortunate in other deals. Magic Johnson came to LA because the New Orleans Jazz gave up three firsts and a second for the right to sign 33-year-old Gail Goodrich. In 1979, the Jazz landed the No. 1 overall pick. The Lakers appreciated it.
In 1980, the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers wound up with a trade much like a standardized-test question. One of these is not like the other: the Lakers traded Don Ford and a 1980 first-round pick and got back Butch Lee and a 1982 first-round selection. Cleveland picked Chad Kinch. LA took James Worthy, a Hall of Famer. Kinch is surely no stranger to halls.
The LA Lakers wanted a piece to get them back to the top of the NBA. They believe Russell Westbrook is that piece. It’s not their fault the trade took on a life of its own from there.
Historical information courtesy of Basketball Reference.