They say the team that gets the best player wins the trade. But is it always the case? After spending just one season (2020-21) with the Wizards, Russell Westbrook was traded to the Lakers in the off-season. Russell, along with Bradley Beal, had just led the Wizards to the playoffs but they did not have the right pieces around them to go deep in the post-season. The Lakers, on the other hand, couldn’t get past the first round.
What is it that both teams were lacking? The Wizards lost Thomas Bryant (their starting center) to an ACL injury and needed an upgrade on their shooting and a player who could create his own shot. The Wizards, we should say, took advantage of the Lakers, who were looking to add another superstar to form a big three. Players like Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, though having two good seasons previously, didn’t really shine in the playoffs. It was evident the Lakers were going to part ways with them. But in order to get Westbrook, who would earn $41M this season, the Lakers had to give away more from a value and monetary perspective.
So what did they do? They sent Harrell, Kuzma, and KCP (probably the most consistent player outside of LeBron, AD, and Caruso last year) and a draft pick for Westbrook. Rather than going for superstars, the Wizards front office made the decision to deepen their roster and build the team around Bradley Beal. They also added Spencer Dinwiddie to the lineup as their starting point guard.
How did this trade turn out for both teams now? The Wizards are 4th in the East with a record of 13-7, while the Lakers at 10-11 are 7th in the West. The record doesn’t really tell the true story as LeBron has missed a lot of games. But Harrell, Kuzma and KCP are all averaging better numbers than last year. With both teams revamping their roster completely, it would obviously take some time to find that chemistry. There were some reports indicating DeMar DeRozan's move to the Lakers was almost a done deal prior to the Westbrook trade. But what influenced the Lakers' front office to get Westbrook instead? We’ll never really know and only time will tell if that was indeed a wise move. However, DeMar DeRozan, after spending three years with the Spurs, is having an MVP season in Chicago, who also added some great pieces to challenge the top teams in the East.
But at this stage, the Wizards' front office and fans will be content with what they got in return for Westbrook. As for the Lakers, they can only hope that they soon settle in on the right starting five and bench rotation. If not, they should consider moving their star point guard or others before the trade deadline despite having one of the deepest rosters in the league.