Posted on: February 9, 2023, 09:06h.
Last updated on: February 9, 2023, 01:31h.
After a year of speculation, the Los Angeles Lakers finally unloaded point guard Russell Westbrook. They did so in a three-team deal involving the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves on the eve of the NBA trade deadline.
The Lakers sent Westbrook, center Damian Jones, small forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, and a protected 2027 first-round draft pick to the Jazz.
The Jazz sent point guard Mike Conley, guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and three second-round picks (in 2023, 2025, and 2026) to the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves sent point guard D’Angelo Russell, shooting guard Malik Beasley, and power forward Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers to complete the Westbrook trade.
Westbrook Trade Affects Playoff Projections and Odds
With a little more than a quarter of the season remaining, the three teams involved in the Westbrook trade are fighting for spots in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament. The Timberwolves are the only team out of the three with a record above .500. The Western Conference has three elite teams at the top of the standings and nine teams (between fourth place and 13th place) within 4.5 games of each other.
The Timberwolves are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference with a 30-28 record. FiveThirtyEight estimates the Timberwolves have a 69% chance of qualifying for the postseason.
The Jazz have a 27-29 record and would bubble the Western Conference Play-In Tournament as the #11 team. According to FiveThirtyEight’s postseason projection, the Jazz have an 11% chance of securing a playoff berth.
With a 25-30 record, the Lakers are in 13th place in the Western Conference, but only two games out of the Play-In Tournament. FiveThirtyEight projects the Lakers have a 31% chance of making the playoffs.
The Lakers are +2500 odds to win the Western Conference, followed by the Timberwolves at +9000 and the Jazz at +2000.
The Lakers are +5000 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship, and they’re the 13th team on DraftKings’ futures board. The Timberwolves are +20000 odds to win the title, and the Jazz are +40000 odds.
Westbrook Ends Tumultuous Stint in Hollywood
The Lakers initially acquired Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards in the summer of 2021. In the preseason, Westbrook feuded with then-head coach Frank Vogel, which was just the beginning of a rocky relationship with the coaching staff. It only took a few games into the start of the 2021-22 season before the Lakers realized they made a crucial error.
After the Lakers missed the playoffs, the team fired Vogel, who was merely a scapegoat for Westbrook’s inability to adapt to the team. Westbrook also had a tempestuous relationship with the local media, and fans skewered him on social media by dubbing him “Westbrick” to lampoon his shooting problems.
The Lakers attempted to trade Westbrook to numerous teams, including the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz, in the summer of 2022. None of those deals came to fruition because every potential trade partner wanted the Lakers to include multiple first-round picks to sweeten the deal.
Westbrook had a player option for the final year on his max contract worth $47 million. He opted-in for the 2022-23 season, but new head coach Darvin Ham decided Westbrook would be better suited as the sixth man. Westbrook eventually accepted his new role and found instant success. He emerged as one of the betting favorites to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging 15.9 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.2 rebounds per game off the bench.
The Lakers finally dumped Westbrook, but it cost them a first-round pick in the 2027 NBA Draft. The team depleted multiple future first-rounders in trades involving Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans and the disastrous trade for Westbrook with the Wizards.
D’Angelo Russell Returns to the Lakers
The Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell, a standout from Ohio State, with the #2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Russell played only two seasons with the Lakers before they traded him to the Brooklyn Nets. After two seasons in Brooklyn, the Nets traded Russell to the Golden State Warriors as part of a package that included All-Star Kevin Durant. He appeared in only 33 games with the Warriors before they traded him to the Timberwolves for swingman Andrew Wiggins in February 2020.
Russell averaged 17.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds over his 478-game career. He’s a career 36% shooter from 3-point range, but shot a career-high 39% from downtown this season. He’s in the last year of his contract, so it’s unknown if the Lakers will sign him in the off-season.
The Lakers lacked consistent 3-point shooting this season, and they upgraded their perimeter shooting with Russell and Malik Beasley. During his seven-year career, Beasley had three seasons in which he shot 40% or better from 3-point range. Beasley started 13 games with the Timberwolves this season and excelled as their sixth man. He averaged 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game off the bench this season. Beasley has one more year left on his contract, but it’s a club option, so the Lakers could pick that up for $16.5 million.
The Lakers also added power forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who provides them with rebounding and defense. He started 41 games for the Timberwolves this season and averaged a career-high 8.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Utah Jazz Stockpiling Draft Picks
The Jazz were looking to trade veteran guard Mike Conley, and he found a home with the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves are a young team, and Conley can provide them with much-needed wisdom.
The Timberwolves also acquired shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker from the Jazz. He showed flashes of success early in his career with the New Orleans Pelicans, but he barely saw any playing time with the Jazz.
The Timberwolves gave up four first-round picks during an off-season trade with the Jazz for center Rudy Gobert. Although this Westbrook multiteam deal didn’t involve any first-rounders to the Timberwolves, they acquired three second-round picks from the Jazz.
The Jazz added Westbrook to their roster, but they really wanted to add another first-round pick to their growing arsenal of draft capital. The Jazz now have 15 first-round picks between 2023 and 2029. They accumulated a horde of picks by trading Gobert to the Timberwolves and dealing guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the off-season.