It’s only been a few weeks since the 2021 NBA Finals ended, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead to next year’s Finals. The NBA offseason is underway, which means teams have already begun maneuvering for the upcoming campaign.
One of the first teams to make a splash this summer was the Los Angeles Lakers, who acquired star point guard Russell Westbrook and two future second-round picks from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd overall pick of the 2021 Draft.
With Westbrook joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, the Lakers now have one of the best trios in the NBA, perhaps surpassed only by the Brooklyn Nets’ triumvirate of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. If you are looking to make an NBA bet of the day, the Lakers are currently favored to win the NBA Western Conference and have the NBA’s second-best title odds at BetMGM (+425) after Brooklyn.
Los Angeles was in need of a major upgrade after slipping to seventh in their conference and being eliminated by the Suns in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. James and Davis both missed significant time with injuries after leading the Lakers to a title in 2020, and it was clear they needed additional help after being overwhelmed by the younger and more athletic Suns.
Enter Westbrook, who rivals Irving and Dwyane Wade as one of the best players LeBron has ever played with. The 2017 NBA MVP and nine-time All-Star is a future Hall-of-Famer with extensive postseason experience to boot, having played in 111 playoff games across 21 different series.
While Westbrook will turn 33 later this year, he’s still near the peak of his powers. His 11.5 rebounds per game and 11.7 assists per game last season were both career highs, with the latter figure pacing the NBA. He’s now averaged a triple-double in four of the past five seasons, making it seem routine.
In that regard, Westbrook is a lot like James. Both are exceptional athletes who excel at attacking the basket, crashing the boards, and finding open teammates. They are the rare alphas who can operate as a team’s top scoring and passing option.
Accordingly, Westbrook should be able to help take a lot of the load off LeBron. James is going to be 37 by year’s end, and his body has started breaking down more frequently as a result of all the wear and tear. He’s still one of the NBA’s best players when healthy, but Westbrook will take a lot of the pressure off him on offense.
Assuming Westbrook and James can co-exist peacefully, the Lakers should rebound next season and will be better equipped to survive a tough Western Conference. They were already an elite defensive team last year, and adding Westbrook gives them substantially more firepower on offense. While they still need to round out their roster with the right role players, Los Angeles will be tough to beat next year if Davis, James, and Westbrook are all healthy.