The Los Angeles Lakers made a blockbuster trade on draft night, reaching an agreement with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell. They now have a lethal Big 3 of Westbrook, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis.
Westbrook is close friends with LeBron and Davis. The three superstars won a gold medal together in the 2012 Olympics and have played in several All-Star games. While Westbrook could certainly create spacing issues for the Lakers since he struggles to shoot the ball, both LeBron and Davis wanted the 2016-17 MVP in LA, with the King possibly hinting at a team-up 13 weeks before the trade was agreed to.
Did LeBron James foreshadow Russell Westbrook trade in April?
After the Wizards defeated the Lakers on April 28, 2021, LeBron posted a picture of Westbrook next to him on Instagram with a caption that read, “We know y’all HATE & don’t APPRECIATE but we just laugh it off! But 1 thing you will do is RESPECT IT/US.” The MVPs are two of the most polarizing players in the league for a variety of reasons, and LeBron wanted to give himself and Westbrook a shout-out since they are two once-in-a-generation players.
Little did Lakers fans know that LeBron and Westbrook would be teammates 13 weeks after LBJ’s Instagram post. Although the official completion of the Lakers-Wizards trade can’t happen before August 6 when the 2021-22 salary-cap year begins, both LeBron and Westbrook are operating under the notion that neither LA nor Washington will back out.
Westbrook wrote a lengthy message on social media thanking the Wizards organization and fans, while LeBron posted a picture of Westbrook and Davis in their Lakers jerseys next to him on Instagram. All three All-Stars will undoubtedly have to make adjustments for this Big 3 to work, and it appears they are willing to do whatever it takes to win a championship together.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis reportedly ready to change positions for Russell Westbrook
According to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times, LeBron is prepared to play power forward and Davis is open to playing center if that makes the Westbrook fit more fruitful. Westbrook also reportedly let LeBron and Davis know he doesn’t mind playing off the ball when James initiates the offense.
Although he’s averaged a triple-double four out of the last five seasons, Westbrook is not a reliable outside threat. He’s a career 30.5% shooter from beyond the arc and has never shot close to 50.0% from the field during his career. It will be fascinating to see how the explosive point guard fits with LeBron and Davis, two players who benefit from having shooters around them.
The Lakers knew they had to get another star next to LeBron and Davis after losing in the first round of the 2020 playoffs. However, it may have been more beneficial for them to pass on Westbrook and acquire Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings instead.
Lakers almost got Buddy Hield
The Lakers were close to acquiring Hield from the Kings before the Westbrook deal took place. Hield is one of the top 3-point shooters in the league and would have been an excellent fit alongside LeBron and Davis. His 3-point shooting would have created a plethora of driving lanes for LeBron, and Hield’s defender wouldn’t have been able to leave him and double Davis in the post, allowing the Brow to attack single coverages.
After getting Westbrook instead of Hield and trading away Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers are in dire need of shooting. It will be interesting to see who general manager Rob Pelinka can get with the little amount of money he has left to work with in free agency, but he has to get some snipers around LeBron, Westbrook, and Davis.
Otherwise, the Lakers could be a disaster in 2021-22 despite having three great players.