Report: Lakers saw Russell Westbrook as “Plan B” of their offseason

Russell Westbrook
Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Rumors have actively been swirling around the Lakers, since as early as the day immediately following the end of the 2021 NBA Finals. The rumors that dropped that day — ones that connected the Los Angeles Lakers to the Suns’ Chris Paul and Wizards’ Russell Westbrook — appear to have been confirmed as legitimate as the team has now agreed to a deal that will see Westbrook come home (in addition to two future second-rounders for the Lakers) in return for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and the 22nd overall pick in last night’s draft (Isaiah Jackson from Kentucky was drafted at that spot).

However, it sounds like the Lakers had even loftier goals than acquiring Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explains that NBA sources told him that the Lakers went into the offseason with goals of attaining the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard or Westbrook’s teammate in Washington, Bradley Beal.

Per NBA sources, the Lakers went into the offseason with a clear Plan A: unrealistic hopes of landing a Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal. Plan B was Chris Paul (but then the Phoenix Suns advanced to the NBA Finals) and Westbrook. Hield was always Plan C.

The Lakers probably never had enough trade assets to satisfy the Trail Blazers’ and Wizards’ demands in those regards. Draft capital was probably the most important thing to those two teams, and that is just something the Lakers don’t have after their acquisition of Anthony Davis.

“Plan C” should also be noted, as it seems like this almost became a reality based on the Tweets from Adrian Wojnarowski/ESPN immediately following the news of Montrezl Harrell opting-in to the final year of his contract with the team. Pincus also notes in his piece that the Wizards “seemed content to wait on big decisions with Beal and Westbrook”, causing Rob Pelinka and the Lakers to turn their focus to Buddy Hield. However, Pincus also notes that the team always kept the door open with the Wizards, leading to the blockbuster deal. You can read Pincus’s whole reporting on the unfolding events here.

Rob Pelinka has never kept it safe in any of his offseasons with the Lakers. Whether it’s signing LeBron James, trading years of drafts for Anthony Davis, or upheaving a championship roster last offseason, the man is always entertaining, if nothing else. His “Plan A” might not have worked this time, but it also didn’t work in the 2019 offseason when the Lakers couldn’t sign Kawhi Leonard.

We all know how that turned out.

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