Does the Russell Westbrook trade change the balance of power in the NBA?

Photo courtesy of Russell Westbrook was recently traded to the LA Lakers.

Does the  Russell  Westbrook trade change  the balance of power in the NBA?
August 04
14:10 2021

The Washington Wizards have agreed to trade All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the No. 22 draft pick in last week’s draft. The Wizards are also sending 2024 and 2028 second-round picks to complete the deal.

Westbrook creates a new big three for the Lakers with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers were just crowned champions of the bubble in 2020 and with the acquisition of Westbrook, they have just put themselves in position for another, if healthy. I have heard a lot of people question the Lakers for this move, but as smart as LeBron is as a player and leader, he will be able to put everyone on the right page.

Although the trade can’t officially be announced until Aug. 6, Westbrook has already said his farewell to the fans of Washington via social media.

“Thank you D.C.!  You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one,” he wrote. “Everyone from the front office, to the training staff, the coaches, my teammates, and the fans. I’m grateful y’all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way. I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand-up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in D.C. and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you! #the district.”

Westbrook is an upgrade to the point guard position for the Lakers from last season. Dennis Schroder operated the starting point position for L.A. last year, but he chose to pursue a more lucrative deal in free agency this off season. That worked out best for the Lakers, because this move takes some of the load off of oft-injured Davis, as well as LeBron.

I understand the apprehension some people have with the Lakers bringing in Westbrook. He is ball dominant, like James, and he is not a good three-point shooter, but I don’t think that concerns the Lakers. Westbrook’s biggest benefit will come from him slashing to the basket in the half court, as well as being a danger in the open court in fast-break situations.

The best move for the Lakers would be to move James to the point guard position and let Westbrook play off the ball when he and James are in the game at the same time. When James is off the floor, you can let Westbrook do what he does best, and that’s attack.

With Westbrook on the team, the offensive load will be lightened for Davis and James. The Lakers need Davis to continue to be the No.1 option and I think it will be best if Westbrook is the No. 2 scoring option with James as the third. James will still average his 20-plus points per game, but heading into his 19th season in the NBA, being the third scoring option will lengthen what short time he has left.

The Lakers still need to figure out what pieces they are able to place around their new Big Three. It worked in Miami and Cleveland because they were able to surround their Big Three’s with three-point shooters and veteran role players that knew what was expected of them. The question remains if the Lakers are able to find those players in free agency to fill those roles on this team.

I hate to say it, but even with the acquisition of Westbrook, the Lakers are still not the favorites in my book to win the championship in 2022. For me, a healthy Brooklyn Nets team still has the upper hand, because I think their Big Three fits better and they have a more quality bench at this current moment.  

The combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden is a better Big Three than what the Lakers have put together with Westbrook. It still would be a great NBA Finals series to see the Lakers match up against the Nets in a seven-game series.  

Even though the Milwaukee Bucks just won the championship, they probably need to make some sort of move to add to their team to compete with what the Nets and Lakers now bring to the table. Not taking anything away from their victory, but this Bucks team reminds me of the Toronto Raptors of 2019.

The Raptors took advantage of injuries to Durant and Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson to win their first championship. The Bucks took advantage of injuries to the Nets that propelled them to the Eastern Conference Finals that helped lead to their championship. I am not saying that to diminish their accomplishment, because they still had to beat the teams that were in front of them.

If Westbrook can buy in, similar to what Harden did when he joined the Nets, it could bode well not only for the Lakers and possible championships, but also for the longevity of James’ career. This move could add a couple more seasons to his career in the purple and gold. I am not the biggest LeBron James fan, but I am in no hurry to see him hang it up anytime soon.

I don’t think the teams at the top of the Eastern and Western Conferences are done making moves. Front offices know they have to act quickly to make sure they secure the necessary pieces to add to their teams. Ben Simmons’ trade talk is still out there, and it will be interesting to see where he lands. 

The season starts on October 19, so we are only a few short months away from more NBA action.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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