The LA Lakers had Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal on their mind before they made a deal to acquire Russell Westbrook.
It would not be wrong to say that the LA Lakers have made the most noise during the current off-season, revamping their roster to a large extent. The team parted ways with Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and a first-round draft pick to make space for Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook created history last season, eclipsing Oscar Robertson as the all-time leader in triple-doubles. However, the former MVP would have an early exit during the 2021 playoffs. Russ is a 2x scoring champion and 2x All-NBA First Team.
Nonetheless, Westbrook was not the first option for the Lakers. According to a report in The Athletic, the 2020 champions had toed with the idea of recruiting Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal initially. However, the Lakers didn’t have the cap space to accommodate these superstars.
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The front office would then turn their attention towards realistic targets such as DeMar DeRozan, Russell Westbrook, and Kyle Lowry.
Russell Westbrook was not on the priority list of the LA Lakers
Though adding Russ has made the Lakers a super team, the 9x All-Star was not the first choice for the team. A report in The Athletic revealed some intriguing details about the Lakers’ off-season plans.
Below are some excerpts of The Athletic report.
“The group focused first on Lillard and Beal, but with no viable path to trading for either of them, turned their attention to more realistic targets: Westbrook, DeRozan, Hield and Kyle Lowry, who would eventually pursue a deal with the Miami Heat instead.
There was genuine excitement shared in the player meetings about how DeRozan would fit. Even if he wasn’t the Lakers’ first choice, it was easy to envision a scenario where he would be their best available option.
For the Lakers, according to those with knowledge of the situation, it was imperative to keep as many potential avenues open as possible.”
The Lakers had a first-round exit during the 2021 playoffs. The supporting cast of Dennis Schroder, KCP, and Kyle Kuzma had a string of poor performances, providing no aid to Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
James’ frustration with the team could be visible on the court, especially in the case of Kyle Kuzma, from who the franchise had high expectations.
“In the two months that followed their first-round playoff flop against Phoenix, when Davis’ groin injury left them pulling up lame, the Lakers explored the prospect of trading for such stars as Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan and Russell Westbrook.”
“The process unfolded well beyond the team’s front office’s search, with James setting up a war room of his own at his Brentwood estate for some in-person player meetings while leading remote communications in other conversations.”
After acquiring Westbrook, the Lakers would sign several veteran All-Stars on minimum deals, including Carmelo Anthony, Rajan Rondo, and Dwight Howard.
With only a few days left for the 2021-22 season, the Lakers look as formidable as they have ever been. The purple and gold team wants to make most of LeBron James’ championship window that is about to close.