The Los Angeles Lakers had many candidates to add to their roster last offseason, as they tried to bounce back from the 2020/21 NBA season and emulate what they did in the bubble two years ago.
Candidates included Buddy Hield, DeMar DeRozan and Russell Westbrook, who eventually joined the Lakers via trade from the Washington Wizards. As we all know now, the Westbrook experiment didn't work for the Lakers, who mightily struggled all season long, getting eliminated from play-in contention this week.
They entered the season expected to win it all, but all they won was an early vacation due to all the bad decisions they made before and during the season. With their season almost over, we're learning more details about the assembling of the team and how things developed to bring Westbrook to L.A.
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, LeBron James and Anthony Davis were the biggest responsible for Westbrook's arrival. They could have gotten DeMar DeRozan, who became an All-Star this season with the Chicago Bulls, instead of Westbrook, but James and AD wanted to team up with the 2017 NBA MVP.
According to sources close to the situation, DeRozan met with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at James’ house in Brentwood multiple times, and there was initial interest in constructing a sign-and-trade with San Antonio that would have likely involved Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and a draft pick. But because DeRozan was a free agent, the Lakers had to wait to act on that scenario. In the interim, talks with the Sacramento Kings for Hield and the Washington Wizards for Westbrook heated up before the NBA draft on July 29.
While timing factored into the choice of Westbrook or Hield (both available via trade before free agency) over DeRozan, sources close to the situation insist that James and Davis’ enthusiasm for Westbrook were what moved the process in that direction.
Even though Westbrook has shown his desire to run it back with the Lakers next season, that's highly unlikely to happen right now. The team is looking for options to move him or ultimately buy him out, but we need to wait and see how they handle the situation.
Lakers fans would love to go back and time and even throw a parade asking the team to sign DeMar DeRozan, but that's not how things work. They still have options to make things right and bounce back next campaign, but we won't know until the season is completely finished.