The Los Angeles Lakers have failed LeBron James. After winning the NBA Championship in 2020, they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the very next year. Instead of letting their team get healthy, they made a trade for Russell Westbrook that blew up in their face.
Now, LA finds themselves struggling to get into the Play-In Tournament race, and James is clearly unhappy with the state of the team. In turn, attaching a first-round pick to Westbrook in order to improve the roster seems like an idea worth pursuing, as James and Anthony Davis clearly seem talented enough to compete for a title.
Here’s an outline of a potential three-team deal involving the Lakers, Miami Heat, and Washington Wizards:
Lakers receive: Kyle Lowry, Will Barton, Duncan Robinson, Taj Gibson
Heat receive: Kyle Kuzma, Monte Morris, Kendrick Nunn
Wizards receive: Westbrook, Nikola Jovic, 2027 1st-Round Pick (Top-5 Protected via LAL), 2029 1st-Round Pick (Top-10 Protected via MIA)
Westbrook’s last great season was with the Wizards, and he seemed to get along well with Bradley Beal. And considering Washington is hell-bent on putting a contending team around Beal, a trade for Westbrook that also nets some future draft capital seems like the best of both worlds. He could be a great fit next to Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, who is playing like an All-Star this year.
As for the Lakers, this deal would see them add players that fit beautifully next to James and Davis. They were reportedly interested in a deal for Lowry last year, so adding him would make sense in this deal. Barton’s shot creation and Robinson’s shooting would also help improve LA’s depth.
Lastly, Miami would improve its short-term and long-term outlook. Pairing Kuzma next to Bam Adebayo in the frontcourt would make for a great duo, and the Heat could re-sign him after this year. Morris isn’t quite as good as Lowry, but he’s much cheaper, and this trade would improve Miami’s depth. They would also get to have a nice reunion with Nunn, who played his best basketball with the Heat.
Bulls Dubbed Potential Russell Westbrook Destination
There aren’t many teams around the league who are interested in taking on Westbrook, but the Wizards could be one of them. And according to Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report, the Chicago Bulls could be another to watch out for.
“Look, the blow-it-up option may not be the likeliest outcome for Chicago this trade season, but it can’t be ruled out, either. And if the Bulls do take that plunge, they can’t half-step into a rebuild. Rather, they should take the plunge head-first. That means not merely moving a veteran or two for a decent asset, but instead shipping out major contributors for prime assets,” Buckley wrote. “Now, if you’re thinking a 34-year-old Russell Westbrook hardly qualifies as such, you’re right—but he isn’t the true target. He’s merely the means to an end: that being the juicy 2027 and 2029 first-round picks the Lakers are allowed to trade. Pick up both of those picks—which won’t convey until long after LeBron James leaves Hollywood—and the Bulls could suddenly have two prime assets to help reshape their roster. Even if they don’t plan on staying down long enough to use those picks themselves, they could get them now and use them in a major trade down the line, once the rebuilding project proves it’s ready to accelerate.”
Josh Richardson Named Potential Lakers Target
Buckley also suggested a potential trade target for the Lakers. He noted that a deal for San Antonio Spurs wing Josh Richardson would be a big-time help.
“If the Lakers don’t want to deplete their limited collection of trade assets, Richardson offers a lower-cost alternative,” Buckley wrote. “The 29-year-old is only signed through this season’s end and doesn’t fit the timeline of a San Antonio team rebuilding around…well, probably whomever it plucks from the top of the 2023 draft. It would be in the Spurs’ best interest to deal Richardson for some type of asset before the trade deadline rather than watch him leave for nothing this offseason. Richardson has never approached stardom, but he has settled in as a pesky defender with a reliable outside shot (career 36.4 percent) and some secondary playmaking ability. He could give consistently helpful two-way contributions to a Lakers club that hasn’t gotten nearly enough of them from its role players.”