Russell Westbrook Trade Minimally Impacts Lakers Futures

Posted By Brett Gibbons on July 30, 2021

When the Los Angeles Lakers landed Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards on draft night, the NBA world went wild. Surely adding the former-MVP to the Lakers’ arsenal would be the electrifying piece needed to push them to the odds-on favorites, right?

Well, the Lakers were already one of the top two teams favored to win the 2022 NBA Finals. DraftKings Sportsbook opened the Lakers at +500 to win the next title, just behind the Brooklyn Nets (+200).

Let’s see how the market reacted.

Russell Westbrook Trade Details

First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Lakers dealt Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the 22nd-overall pick to the Wizards in exchange for Westbrook and a pair of future picks.

Kuzma has long been at the forefront of Lakers’ trade rumors. However, he remained a part of the roster throughout L.A.’s 2020 NBA Championship run and the subsequent 2021 season.

With the trade, Westbrook became the first-ever MVP to be traded in three consecutive seasons. In July 2019, he was dealt from Oklahoma City to Houston in exchange for Chris Paul. In the middle of the 2020 season, he was again traded to Washington in exchange for John Wall.

Finally, 2021 saw him traded to the Lakers for a haul.

Oddsmakers Remain Mostly Indifferent

While L.A. saw a slight boost in their 2022 NBA Finals odds, the boost was just that – slight. BetMGM lists the Lakers at +400, still second behind the Nets (+230).

The Lakers’ biggest Achilles heel in 2021 was their lack of shooting ability. Westbrook is a career 43.7% field goal shooter and 30.5% from beyond the arc. He leads the NBA all-time in triple doubles (184), but doesn’t spread the floor like the Lakers needed in the 2021 season.

Historically, LeBron James-led teams succeed when he is surrounded by shooters. His 2020 championship team with the Lakers led the NBA in team field goal percentage (0.480) and his 2016 championship team in Cleveland was seventh in three-point shooting (0.362). His most successful teammates – Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh even Anthony Davis – are capable three-point shooters.

NBA MVP numbers remain generally unmoved by the trade, either. LeBron James stayed at +1100 and Westbrook remained a +5000 longshot.

History Of NBA MVPs Who Were Traded

Historically, players who have won the MVP award since 1980- and then got traded haven’t been terribly successful in terms of titles. Since 1980, just three former MVPs won championships on the team they were traded to – Moses Malone (76ers, 1983), Shaquille O’Neal (Heat, 2006) and Kevin Garnett (Celtics, 2008).

PlayerYear TradedTraded ToChampionship?
Russell Westbrook2021LakersTBD
James Harden2020NetsTBD
Derrick Rose2016KnicksNo
Kevin Garnett2007CelticsYes (2008)
Allen Iverson2006NuggetsNo
Shaquille O'Neal2004HeatYes (2006)
Hakeem Olajuwon1994RaptorsNo
Charles Barkley1996RocketsNo
Moses Malone198276ersYes (1983)

Note: Bill Walton won MVP in 1978 and was later traded to the Celtics in 1985, where he won a title in 1986. He won the MVP award with the Blazers but was traded by the Clippers and is not included in the list.

How The Westbrook Trade May Shape Lakers Offseason

Per Spotrac, the Lakers roster just five players following this move. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Alfonzo McKinnie, and now Russell Westbrook is the entire active roster. McKinnie has a non-guaranteed contract and reports paint him as unlikely to be retained.

As the offseason progresses, L.A. will need to flesh out this roster and make several depth moves. Limited resources may stunt that move, though, as the Lakers sit just 20th in the NBA in available cap space. That ranks behind competing Western Conference teams like the Clippers and Grizzlies.

The only option now for Los Angeles moving forward is to sign a plethora of shooters, of which there are plenty. Veteran players like JJ Redick or Trevor Ariza may sign on for cheap to chase a ring.

How the Lakers go about these offseason moves will likely continue to shape their 2022 futures.

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