Russell Westbrook to Jazz, D'Angelo Russell to Lakers in reported 3-team trade
Mike Conley Jr. is also headed to the Timberwolves
The Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves are all swapping point guards and more in a reported three-team trade involving eight players, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Under the reported terms, the Lakers will acquire D'Angelo Russell from the Timberwolves and Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt from the Jazz, while Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and a lightly protected 2027 Lakers first-round pick will be sent to Utah. The Jazz are sending Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Minnesota, which will also receive draft picks.
The Jazz are expected to buy out Westbrook once the trade is completed, per TNT's Chris Haynes. The LA Clippers are reportedly interested in Westbrook should that come to pass, which could mean Westbrook doesn't have to leave Los Angeles. The Chicago Bulls are also reportedly interested.
Russell Westbrook's Lakers career comes to merciful end
The deal ends Westbrook's 1.5-season tenure with the Lakers, which got off to a rocky start and never came close to recovering.
Since the Lakers traded a bevy of role players to the Washington Wizards for Westbrook, they have gone 58-79 in the regular season, and they're currently on track to miss the playoffs for a second straight year. Despite LeBron James' and Anthony Davis' reported advocacy for acquiring him, Westbrook's ball-dominant style proved to be an awful stylistic fit in an offense that usually wants James controlling the floor.
Further friction saw Lakers head coach Frank Vogel fired, reportedly due to his failure to integrate Westbrook, and new head coach Darvin Ham quickly decree that Westbrook would move into a bench role this season, where he has at least received less scrutiny.
Rumors of a potential trade swirled early in Westbrook's first year as a Laker, but his enormous contract, with a $44 million salary in 2021-22 and $47 million player option in 2022-23, and the Lakers' lack of assets made the idea a hard sell to other teams.
It was long assumed that the Lakers would have to part with their 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks, the only significant picks they were allowed to trade, to get rid of their point guard. The only question was what they would get back, and the answer turned out to be a familiar face.
D'Angelo Russell reunites with Lakers
While Westbrook's struggles have received plenty of attention since he joined the Lakers, Russell's time with Minnesota was no runaway success, either.
Russell's career started with the Lakers as the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, but he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2017 for a variety of reasons (among them a certain incident involving Nick Young). Russell reached All-Star status in Brooklyn, then landed with the Golden State Warriors as part of the sign-and-trade deal that brought Kevin Durant to the Nets. Russell's Warriors career turned out to be short-lived, as the Warriors traded him to Minnesota after a half-season as part of the Andrew Wiggins deal.
The Timberwolves trade united Russell with his close friend, Karl-Anthony Towns, but the two failed to achieve any meaningful success during their time together. They did go 46-36 last season but were bounced by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Russell's four-year, $117 million contract expires after this season, but the Timberwolves opted to move on from him in exchange for Mike Conley Jr., whose leadership and defense might prove to be a better fit alongside Towns, Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert. He also has past experience playing alongside Gobert on the Jazz.
Jazz add another draft pick
It will be four years until the first-rounder acquired by the Jazz from the Lakers is put into action, but that's how the wind has blown in Utah over the past year.
The rebuilding Jazz are basically paying off Westbrook's contract for the Lakers in exchange for yet another draft pick, which gives them a comical 15 first-rounders between 2023 and 2029, mostly thanks to trading Gobert and Donovan Mitchell under new basketball operations CEO Danny Ainge.
Here's how their first-round picks are looking, via RealGM:
2023 — own
2023 — from Rockets, Nets or Sixers (least favorable)
2023 — from Timberwolves (unprotected)
2024 — owed to Thunder (protected 1-10)
2025 — own
2025 — from Timberwolves (unprotected)
2025 — from Cavaliers (unprotected)
2026 — own (could swap with Timberwolves or Cavaliers)
2027 — own
2027 — from Timberwolves (unprotected)
2027 — from Cavaliers (unprotected)
2027 — from Lakers (lightly protected)
2028 — own (could swap with Cavaliers)
2029 — own
2029 — from Cavaliers (unprotected)
2029 — from Timberwolves (protected 1-5)