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What Russell Westbrook acquisition means for the Lakers

Los Angeles pulled off a big trade for the star guard, but will it pay off for the franchise?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards
Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards warms up before the game against the Philadelphia 76ers during Round 1, Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 31, 2021 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have pulled off a blockbuster deal for Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook, according to multiple media reports. Westbrook will come in with a big cap hit for the 2021-22 season and has a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season.

There’s no doubt Westbrook is a star, but will he complement the Lakers’ duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis well?

Westbrook is a decent midrange shooter, but he’s a net negative from behind the arc. The guard shot 31.5 percent from deep last season and is 30.5 percent from deep in his career. The big problem is Westbrook continues to take threes at an alarmingly high clip, something the Lakers will hope to curtail in the coming seasons.

James and Davis thrive in pick-and-roll basketball, but Westbrook offers another dimension of that concept to LA. He can be the lead initiator with either James or Davis being the secondary player involved. All three guys are great going to the basket, but James and Davis are adequate enough shooting from range to make this a deadly combination if worked out correctly. However, that does not mitigate Westbrook’s poor shooting ability overall and his tendency to be too wild with the ball. The guard brings great energy, but he’ll have to learn to differ more often. James is still the lead guy for the Lakers and Westbrook will have to learn to co-exist with him.

The Lakers will now run into the problem of filling out the roster around these three stars, especially with Westbrook’s cap hit. According to Shams Charania, Los Angeles reportedly sent Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the No. 22 pick in the 2021 draft to Washington for Westbrook and two future second-round picks. That’s three rotation players the Lakers gave up for a guy who may or not fit well with James and Davis.

James is +1100 to win MVP next season and Davis is +2500, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Those odds won’t change much with Westbrook in the fold, although Davis is more likely to get a boost than James if any occurs. The Lakers are +475 to win the championship next year, good for second in the league. That number will definitely change given how the rest of the roster shapes out. As of right now, the Lakers have four players on the roster with this trade going down. You still need five players to play a basketball game.

The Lakers are attempting to do something the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards were unable to; make Westbrook a more efficient player. He’s got an alpha mentality and even with James leading the team, that is unlikely to change. The Lakers have now dumped their cap space into a player who racks up a lot of stats, but tends to get reckless at times with the ball and force things. He’s a fun player to watch, but Westbrook’s acquisition might not do much to help the Lakers in their pursuit of a championship.