The NBA Draft has now come and gone. While there were some surprises for picks, the biggest surprises weren’t necessarily who was picked where, but the blockbuster trade that happened
The biggest news of the night was the trade that occurred between the Wizards and the Lakers. The Wizards are sending Russell Westbrook, 2 second-round picks for Ketavis Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, and the number 22 pick (Wizards later traded the number 22 pick to the Pacers for Aaron Holiday). From the Lakers’ perspective, they added a triple-double machine that can handle ball duties as well. The problem is, there is only 1 basketball. Russell Westbrook needs the ball to be at his best. Lebron James also needs the ball to be at his best. Anthony Davis doesn’t need the ball as much but still needs it. There is also another problem with this trade and that’s the salary cap. Right now, between Westbrook, Lebron, and AD, that is most of the team’s salary cap. They only have 5 players under contract, so they are having to get an entirely new team during the free agency period. It’ll be interesting to see how LA fills out the rest of this roster and who it can convince to take a significant pay cut to contend for a ring.
From the Wizards’ side, this frees up a big contract in Westbrook with all indications being that they are going to try and build around Bradley Beal. With that said, who is Washington going to attract? Looking at this roster, this is not a playoff roster. This is a roster that needs a rebuild. This of course can change obviously in an instant if they are able to get an all-star or a superstar. The issue is who are they going to get? There is no real impact-free agent that they could realistically get. Having money free for salary cap space is great but teams have done this only to fail in getting the marquee player and are forced to spend it on role players. Beal can also be a free agent after the season. Putting all your eggs in one basket is a tricky proposition. Sometimes it works (see Giannis staying in Milwaukee), other times, not so much (see Kevin Durant leaving OKC for Golden State).
The other major surprise of the night was the lack of specific players being traded on a night that sees lots of trades in the NBA. The 2 main players insiders and other NBA pundits who speculated they could be moved were the previously mentioned Bradley Beal and Ben Simmons. I won’t go into detail about Beal since I’ve talked about him previously, but Simmons will be an interesting topic going forward in the off-season. It will be interesting to see if Philadelphia moves off its current asking price for Ben and maybe reduces the price. One thing that won’t change regarding what it will require to trade Ben is an all-star caliber player to pair with Joel Embiid.
With the off-season fast approaching, it will be interesting to see what free agents move to new teams and which ones will stay once it begins. The one thing about the NBA, to quote Kevin Garnett, “Anything is possible”.
Special thanks to guest contributor Matt Willis for this contribution.