Lakers close to Russell Westbrook trade prior to NBA Draft

The Los Angeles Lakers are in line to make a huge NBA Draft night splash to get LeBron James and Anthony Davis a third superstar.

The 2020 NBA champions are near a deal to acquire point guard Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards. In exchange for the 2017 MVP, the Wizards would receive Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the Lakers’ No. 22 pick in Thursday night’s draft, according to The Athletic.

The Lakers have been on the prowl for another superstar to lift the pressure off of James and Davis. They are trying to make Westbrook that guy. However, the Lakers haven’t closed the book on another potential move. Before news of the Westbrook trade broke, ESPN reported Los Angeles was moving toward a similar deal that would’ve landed them Buddy Hield from the Sacramento Kings. With the swap for Westbrook still not finalized, ESPN reported that the Lakers are still talking with Sacramento about the sharpshooting Hield.

Russell Westbrook may soon be a Laker
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As a member of the Wizards, the 32-year-old Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and a career-high 11.7 assists per game last season. He will be the key playmaker any time James isn’t on the court, which was a problem the Lakers had in 2021.

In the 27 games James missed due to injury, the Lakers went 12-15 and saw their points per game drop from 109.5 to 105.7.

The trade was dependent on the status of Harrell’s contract. The 27-year-old had a decision to make regarding his player option for next season. If he declined, then the Lakers would not have enough assets to complete the trade. However, if Harrell opted-in he would receive $9.7 million this season. He averaged 13.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in his lone year as a Laker.

For the Wizards, the trade may set up a rebuild in Washington. Star Bradley Beal has been growing frustrated with Washington’s lack of success and has been the center of many trade rumors.

Kuzma, 26, was seen as the centerpiece of the trade. His numbers have declined since James arrived in 2018, but he still has loads of potential. During his rookie year, Kuzma averaged 16.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and shot 36.6 percent from 3-point range — the best in his career.

The Wizards would also receive a draft pick, which they can use to potentially develop a young player, and a veteran swingman in Caldwell-Pope. Last season, Caldwell-Pope shot a career-high 41 percent from downtown.

The Lakers are trying to return to the Finals after being knocked out in the first round by the Phoenix Suns this season. James, 36, is hunting for his fifth championship.