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Does Russell Westbrook Improve Lakers Championship Chances?

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With the NBA Draft finished, the collective landscape across the league is in its prime for a trading bonanza. The Memphis Grizzlies traded Jonas Valanciunas to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, while the Brooklyn Nets sent Landry Shamet to the Phoenix Suns. However, the biggest move came on Thursday when former MVP Russell Westbrook was moved from the Washington Wizards to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Westbrook, who is coming off a polarizing season, will undoubtedly make an immediate impact with Los Angeles. The triple-double record holder continued his legacy last season, averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebound, and 11.7 assists per contest across 65 games. The Wizards finished with the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference last season after winning 17 of their final 23 regular season games. After surpassing the Indiana Pacers in the play-in tournament, the Wizards lost in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers in a mere five games. With rookie head coach Wes Unseld Jr at the helm, the team still maintains promising talents in Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura, and others.

Despite Westbrook being on the move, Wizards fans should remain optimistic. Trading away star players can often lead to a top draft pick, or ultimately frees up cap space ahead of free agency.

Beal, who has been the subject of multiple trade rumors this offseason, seems to be committed to the team following the news.

“It’s tough. We wanna win. I wanna win. This is why I stayed. I wanna win (here). I figure this is the place I can get it done. So, it’s tough… But for me, like I said earlier, I give it to God for just giving me the strength to just do it every night, to just show up every night, regardless of what’s going on, regardless of how we’re playing. It’s my job to lead and come out competing every night, and hopefully my guys will follow behind that. So, that’s just been my mind-state.

Bradley Beal, January 28th, 2021

For the Lakers, the team receives their third star to pair up with the deadly duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. On the other hand, Los Angeles becomes burdened with one of the largest contracts in the NBA ($44 million next season). For all of Westbrook’s positive attributes, he is still 32-years old and has been limited with his shooting range. For a team like the Lakers, whose shooting issues were highlighted in their first round exit to the Phoenix Suns, this is a risky trade.

The team was also rumored to be in the running to acquire Sacramento Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield. By moving in this direction, can a trio of Davis, James, and Westbrook succeed in the modern NBA?

Offensively, this team can be deadly from the inside. A trio of driving talent like this hasn’t been seen for a long time in the modern NBA, but maybe for good reasons. The San Antonio Spurs exterminated with a more old school offense while having DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge on their roster, but found minimal success. If the Lakers want this offense to succeed, they need more perimeter shooting than they currently have.

Los Angeles is showing that they are committing to the “all-in” approach this season. Their offensive transition should be towards the top of the league. However, their shooting from beyond the arc will be a low point. Last season, the team finished 21st in the NBA last season in 3PT%.

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