The Los Angeles Lakers made the first major trade of the offseason last Thursday night.
Russell Westbrook, a 2024 second-round pick, and a 2028 second-round pick were sent back to the Lakers.
The Washington Wizards have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook, 2024 second-round pick, 2028 second-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and No. 22 tonight, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 30, 2021
The trade is not official until the salary cap is announced on August 6.
Westbrook is coming off his fourth season averaging a triple-double and should be able to alleviate some playmaking burdens from LeBron.
The Lakers now have three stars on the roster but the fit on paper is not clean cut.
Los Angeles will need to surround their “Big 3” with quality supporting talent.
Before the start of free agency, the Lakers had only five players under contract for next season at the combined cost of more than $125 million.
Salaries on the Lakers cap sheet to start 2021-22:
A. Davis – $35,361,360
M. Gasol – $2,692,991
L. James – $41,180,544
A. McKinnie – $1,910,860 (non-guaranteed)
R. Westbrook – $44,211,146
Total – $125,356,901
Projected Cap = $112,414,000
Projected Tax = $136,606,000@spotrac
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) July 30, 2021
Filling out the roster will require some cap gymnastics by the front office.
The veteran talent pool and bargain bin will need to be scoured to put together a title-supporting cast.
Here is a look at what the Lakers should be looking for in supporting talent and who their dream starting lineup would consist of.
Shooting should be priority number one when searching for offseason signings.
Especially when putting them next to three guys who are not the best shooters from deep.
LeBron (36.5 percent), AD (26 percent), and Westbrook (31.5 percent) were all below the league average from three (36.7 percent).
And none of them attempted five or more per game.
Rob Pelinka will need to find knock-down shooters to put around his three stars to maximize their talents.
LA should also look for players that play solid perimeter defense.
Three-and-D is a phrase that may be overused around the league today, but there is good reason for it.
That archetype of player is vital to how many teams operate on the court.
Los Angeles will be no different.
Shooters will be important to space the floor and allow Westbrook, James, and Davis room to operate.
And with both Westbrook and James not being the defenders they used to be, having quality point-of-attack stoppers will be crucial to allow both players to save their energy to run the offense.
Lakers Dream Starting Five
With the type of player needed to round out the starting five defined, here is what a dream lineup would look like for the Lakers.
PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Wayne Ellington
SF – Trevor Ariza
PF – LeBron James
C – Anthony Davis
While Davis has made it clear he prefers playing PF, reports have stated he agreed to play more center to fit Westbrook better this year.
He is not a great three-point shooter, but he can still space the floor with his jumper.
The Lakers need to maximize the shooting ability from their other two lineup pieces which makes it almost impossible to start a traditional center.
Moving Davis to the center position and James to the PF position lets the Lakers slot two floor-spacing wings in the 2 and 3 positions.
Ellington shot 42.2 percent on six attempts per game last season.
Ariza shot 35 percent on 4.8 attempts per game last year.
Ellington is a bit of a defensive liability, but Ariza plays solid perimeter defense and can defend across multiple positions.
They will open up driving lanes for James and Westbrook and provide targets for them to kick out to.
The frontcourt of Ariza, James, and Davis will allow the Lakers to be ultra-switchable on defense.
And Davis will remain the rim deterrent he has been throughout his career.
Ellington and Ariza should give the Lakers’ three stars plenty of room to work on offense and keep the defense respectable.