The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed in principle to a trade that would send point guard Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz in a three-team deal involving the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to ESPN.
As part of the trade, the Lakers will send Westbrook, forward Juan Toscano-Anderson and center Damian Jones to the Jazz, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. In exchange, the Lakers will receive D’Angelo Russell, whom the team drafted with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, from the Timberwolves and guard Malik Beasley from the Jazz.
The Lakers are also reportedly sending a lightly-protected future first round pick to Utah, Wojnarowski said.
The massive shakeup to the Lakers roster has been long telegraphed and clamored for among fans of the team, as well as Lakers star LeBron James who has been not-so-privately frustrated about the team’s performance this season.
The Lakers are currently five games under .500 and the league’s all-time scoring leader has made little effort to hide his displeasure about the makeup of the roster.
Westbrook, whom the team acquired in a blockbuster trade in the summer of 2021, was expected to be Lakers’ third star, but a lack of perimeter shooting and inconsistent performances as the team’s starting point guard resulted in a tumultuous relationship between the former league MVP and the organization.
Earlier this year, new head coach Darvin Ham relegated Westbrook to a bench role, which Westbrook seemingly embraced and did not publicly lament. However, during Tuesday night’s home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a historic evening in which LeBron James surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the league’s scoring record, tempers came to a head and led to a locker room shouting match between Westbrook and Ham, according to ESPN.
Still, it appears the on-court fit between Westbrook and James is what ultimately sunk the partnership, rather than any personality clashes among the team’s players and coaching staff.
Westbrook will now fly to Salt Lake City to finalize the trade, although it’s unclear if he will finish the season as a member of the Jazz.
Westbrook could find himself agreeing to a contract buyout, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent and give him the ability to choose his next team.
The surprising Jazz have dipped below .500 and are currently sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference, defying all pre-season expectations. But with what many believe to be the most loaded NBA Draft class in a decade only months away, the Jazz appear to be giving up on their playoff aspirations in an effort to improve the team’s draft odds.
The Westbrook trade will reunite the Lakers franchise with one of their first blue chip prospects in the pre-LeBron era. D’Angelo Russell shared a back court with Kobe Bryant during the infancy of his career. He was eventually traded to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez in a salary-dumping maneuver that helped clear the way for the Lakers to sign James.
The 26-year-old guard is currently averaging 17.9 points, 3.1 rebound and 6.2 assists per game. He’s shooting 46.5% from the field this season, including 39.1% from 3-point range.
The Lakers will also receive guard Malik Beasley, one of the league’s most prolific three-point shooters, and Jarred Vanderbilt, a young 6-foot-8 forward who has started 41 games for the Jazz and is averaging career highs in points and assists per game.
The Jazz will also send point guard Mike Conley to the Minnesota Timberwolves, reuniting him with former teammate Rudy Gobert. The Timberwolves have reportedly been interested in upgrading their point guard play in hopes of unlocking rising star Anthony Edwards. Guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker will also go from Utah to Minnesota.
As part of the trade, Wojnarowski says, the Lakers will give up their 2027 first-round pick which is protected if it falls within picks 1 through 4 in the draft.
The Lakers have shown reluctance to trade any future first round picks this season as the team is without much future draft capital after unloading the deck to acquire Anthony Davis in 2019.
All players involved in the trade have been informed and the trade has been completed with the league office, according to Wojnarowski.