The NBA Draft is a wrap, but there are also several trades that have surfaced as teams brought on fresh talent. Things are going to look very different next season, especially as the LA Lakers look to come off a weak performance. It’s obvious, looking at the activity going on, that there are still more trades to take place in the next couple of weeks.
Westbrook Heads to LA
Russell Westbrook is going to be able to join LeBron James and the rest of the Lakers squad. The Lakers acquired him, a 2024 second-round pick and a 2028 second-round pick from the Washington Wizards in exchange for giving up Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the Number-22 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-doubles with 184, will make $44 million next season. The Lakers are banking on him to recover after they lost a shot at defending their 2020 championship.
Last season, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds while in the Wizards uniform, enough to lead the team to an eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. They were ultimately eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-1, in the first round of the playoffs, and Westbrook is ready to be tied to a championship team. Lakers legend Magic Johnson reacted on Twitter when the story broke. He asserted, “With Westbrook joining LeBron and AD, the Lakers now have their version of the Big 3. All we need now is a couple of shooters and we’ll be tough to beat!!”
The Lakers, with their Orlando bubble championship in 2020, were eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs this year. They struggled in much of the year, with James and Anthony Davis having to sit out for a number of games late in the season due to injuries in the NBA.
The Pistons Have New Energy with Cade Cunningham
The Detroit Pistons picked Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham with their first pick in the draft last night. The team is confident that the 6-foot-8, 220-pound guard will put it back in the spotlight. Cunningham is the third Big 12 player to be selected Number 1 overall in the NBA Draft, joining Blake Griffin in 2009 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014.
The Brooklyn Nets added a couple of strong players in the first round that they hope will be added to the rotation. Day’Ron Sharpe and Cam Thomas are rising stars, and the Nets would love to see them in the playoffs. More importantly, the Nets have to be pleased with how the team is measuring up against some of the others ahead of free agency. Nobody in the Eastern Conference made a big move to improve their roster through trades, leaving Brooklyn as the probable favorite to make it into the playoffs out of the conference. With free agency still ahead and the trade/buyout market still lingering, no contender is completely set. Still, early looks at the Nets roster are promising, as they still have much of the high-level talent in the league.
Warriors Pick Up a Little Support
The Golden State Warriors added two potentially outstanding prospects in the NBA Draft when they selected Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. However, it’s unclear how productive they will be. Stephen Curry has shown that he has a lot of basketball left in him, and the Warriors need to make sure they capitalize on his experience. The front office is likely willing to shop its two picks for a veteran and try to find more depth, but questions still remain. Last year, Steve Kerr had difficulty balancing a team looking for wins and trying to develop James Wiseman, and a big trade could still be in the cards to ease the pressure. For now, though, it’s going to be a struggle for Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to return to the Finals with all the youth on the roster.
Bradley Beal seems interested in staying with the Washington Wizards. GM Tommy Sheppard worked his magic to convert the radioactive contracts of John Wall and Westbrook into Kuzma, Harrell, Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Holiday, and this could help ease Beal’s mind. They will add depth around him, possibly producing a championship-caliber squad on its way to its first title since 1978.