As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski from ESPN, Russell Westbrook has been sent to the Utah Jazz in a massive three-team trade involving the Jazz, Lakers, and Timberwolves. Los Angeles will be home to D’Angelo Russell once again, along with Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, as the Lakers hope to make a playoff push in the ladder half of the NBA season. Minnesota acquired rock-solid veteran point guard Mike Conley from the Jazz, along with a couple of second-round draft picks. Likely to buy out Westbrook, Utah’s main priority was clearly LA’s 2027 first-round draft pick as they look to build on the bright futures in players such as Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson. With so many moving pieces in this deal, it might be hard to predict how these three teams will shape up for the rest of the season, but here are three major impacts I believe this trade will have on the league moving forward:
Who Picks Up Russ?
While not final, it seems as though Russell Westbrook will be bought out by the Utah Jazz relatively quickly. Unable to find a steady home since his OKC days, Westbrook’s playstyle is obviously a tough one to implement on a majority of teams, especially in the middle of a season. With that being said, there still are some candidates that could utilize Westbrook as a spark-plug backup point guard in an effort to make a deep playoff run. The two teams that initially come to mind are the Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat. With Chris Paul’s injury history, Devin Booker’s current struggle with a groin injury, and Jae Crowder potentially on the move, Westbrook might not be a bad option to pick up as some added depth. On the other hand, Miami has been thrown around for quite a while as possible Russ-suitors, and with Kyle Lowry’s subpar performance this season, Westbrook could help the Heat steal a game or two deep in the playoffs against the Celtics, Bucks, or maybe even both.
The Lakers Add Some Solid Rotational Pieces, But is it Enough?
LeGeneral-Manager has struck again. All jokes aside, Russ is now gone, which leaves no scapegoat for Lakers fans to blame their less-than-mediocre season on. D’Angelo Russell will likely be a better fit with LeBron and AD than Westbrook, but I’m not sure his addition makes Los Angeles any more than a ninth or tenth-seed. Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley are both scrappy players with the ability to step in and perform in big-time minutes. Hopefully, their addition can improve the Lakers’ bottom-half defensive rating, which will be essential if they want to meet the lofty expectations surrounding any team with both LeBron and AD on the roster.
After a Hot Start, the Utah Jazz are Back in Rebuild Mode
Who would’ve thought that Lauri Markkanen would end up as a borderline All-Star starter this year? The Jazz shocked just about everyone this season with a crazy hot start but now have slowly come back down to earth. This Mike Conley trade is simply an affirmation of that. Utah undoubtedly has an incredibly exciting future, but it’s just that: a future. Danny Ainge isn’t looking to end up as an eighth seed and maybe take the Denver Nuggets or Memphis Grizzlies to five games. Acquiring the Lakers’ first-round pick in 2027 will allow them to continue on their current timeline and potentially trade for another stud down the line as their current talent continues to develop. Wembanyama might be out of the picture this year, but this draft class has plenty of top-tier talent that I’m sure the Jazz front office will be able to capitalize on.