Without a doubt, the Los Angeles Lakers had a terrible season, considering the expectations they had at the start of the year. The superstar duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis won an NBA title for the Lakers during the 2020 season, and they were bolstered by the presence of 9-time All-Star and former MVP Russell Westbrook.
Together, they were expected to win the NBA title and were considered the favorites to come out of the Western Conference. Nobody could have imagined, no matter how well they can predict a team’s production, that the Los Angeles would completely miss the postseason and even the play-in tournament.
The play-in tournament was considered a blessing for the Lakers at some point of this season, because they had a sub .500 record and were fighting for a chance to compete after the regular season. At the end of the year, the Lakers had a 33-49 record, which was good for 11th in the Western Conference. Anthony Davis, the team’s expected best scorer, only played in 40 games and shot the ball extremely poorly. He shot 18.6% from three and 71.4% from the free-throw line, abnormal numbers for a Hall of Fame talent that was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. Russell Westbrook was healthy, competing in 78 games, but he shot 29.8% from three and 66.7% from the stripe along with being one of the most inconsistent point guards in the league.
Westbrook turned the ball over an average of 3.8 times per game and constantly made headlines due to his inability to control the tempo of the Lakers game and also make shots near the rim. More so than any other player we have ever seen, Westbrook missed an unbelievable amount of layups and dunks this year. Even if Westbrook’s numbers at 18.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 7.1 APG looked great, his moments of inconsistency were demoralizing to the team. It never worked with Russ, as the former MVP even seemingly deflected blame by putting it on the Lakers for his inconsistent play:
“What I bring to an organization is not just basketball. I am well-faceted in different aspects of my life, whether it’s in the community, whether it’s leadership, whether it’s different things of helping other teammates and people and creating friendships and relationships, because that’s the bigger goal because basketball is a short time in your life and you have an ability to create friendships and relationships in that time. But when you have to try to prove to people or try to let people take this perception of who they think of me, it kind of takes you coming in and, good luck, you know. I just never felt I had a fair chance on the basketball front or any front.”
Most importantly, LeBron James, despite averaging 30.3 PPG during the year, was 37 years old and could not carry a team into the playoffs single-handedly as he used to do in his prime.
The Lakers are looking for a way to give LeBron James the help he needs, and it might come courtesy of the Chicago Bulls. Chicago has a massive factor weighing on their postseason, and that is held in Zach LaVine’s hands. LaVine is a free agent and has made no secret that he is keeping his options open. In fact, LaVine has stated he is actually looking forward to free agency:
“Free agency is gonna be a big milestone for me,” LaVine said. “It’s my first time going into it really being [an] unrestricted free agent. I dealt with it being restricted before, so it’s a whole new experience. I’m excited for the season with the Bulls. But you know, moving forward, it’s gonna be a whole new experience for me.”
With LaVine’s decision essentially leaving Chicago waiting in the dark, they might be able to take a step ahead and consider a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to completely change the NBA landscape. LaVine has reportedly always been a Lakers fan, and social media has already predicted that the shooting guard would consider joining the Purple and Gold.
If LaVine makes it clear to Chicago brass that he wants to play for the Lakers, a massive blockbuster deal could be in the works that send the 2-time All-Star to Los Angeles to join up with one of the top-5 players of all time in LeBron James. The Bulls would have to accept a massive haul in return, and the final trade package could see both Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook joining DeMar DeRozan in Chicago.
Trade Package: Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook for Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Patrick Williams, Alex Caruso, 2022 First-Round Pick, 2023 First-Round Pick From Portland
This deal would obviously shake up the league, and alter both conferences because both the Lakers and Bulls had a superstar player that was in the MVP conversation at some point in LeBron James and DeMar DeRozan. Giving both players parts that could immediately help and improve the roster around them would be massive in the steps they would want to take next year. Here is how this blockbuster deal changes the NBA, and why it works for both teams.
Chicago Have A Chance To Win The East With a Big Three Led By DeMar DeRozan
The Chicago Bulls were the number one seed at some point in the Eastern Conference this season, led by their superstar DeMar DeRozan and also the All-Star-level play of Zach LaVine. But injuries to key players, including Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, killed their chances to hold on to the coveted number one seed and ultimately fell to 6th place, which forced a showdown with the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks. With such a difficult path ahead, the Bulls had no shot at defeating the reigning champions and besides DeMar DeRozan’s 41-point performance in Game 2; they were blown off the floor.
Even if the Bulls’ season ended sooner than expected, the franchise player had nothing but positive things to say about the way the year ended:
“Perfect. Couldn't have went a better way. It's been a great year to say the least. Just being around the front office, teammates, city. Everything has been something more than I could've imagined.”
With DeRozan fully on board with the Bulls, Chicago’s brass needs to make major moves to surround him with the appropriate talent to compete with the likes of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Even the Philadelphia 76ers brought on board another All-Star in James Harden, regardless of their second-round exit. The Bulls need to add superstar players to pair with DeMar because their franchise star is on board for the long run.
With LaVine entertaining free agency, it essentially means the Bulls could be at risk of losing a star player that could be looking for greener pastures. Rather than resting on their laurels, the Chicago Bulls should find a way to lose one All-Star for the sake of two (former) All-Stars. Anthony Davis, when healthy, is a top-10 player in the game and can also be a top-5 player in the game when firing on all cylinders. No big man has the guard skills of Davis, and his impact on both ends of the floor is undisputedly great.
Zach LaVine averaged 24.4 PPG this season, and while that is a great number for a sidekick, Anthony Davis can easily meet that number and also exceed that offensive production. As great as LaVine is, he is not as impactful as a healthy Davis is. Remember, Davis averaged 26.1 PPG on 50.3% from the field in the 2020 season, and also shot 33.0% from three and 84.6% from the line. In the postseason, the elite big man took his numbers to 27.7 PPG on 57.1% shooting from the field, 38.3% from three, and 83.2% from the stripe.
LaVine was not very effective in his first postseason, averaging 19.3 PPG on 42.9% shooting, although he was slightly banged up. As great as LaVine is and will likely improve his production as he gains more experience, there is no question that Davis is far more “war ready” alongside a veteran like DeRozan. The wild card is Russell Westbrook, but there is no doubt that the point guard brings more offensive firepower than both Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.
Losing Caruso and Ball will hurt Chicago’s defense, but they could bring out the best of Russell Westbrook, who will be the leading ball-handler and not have to share with another point guard of LeBron James’ caliber. Russ is also off the books following the 2023 season, which gives the Bulls flexibility in re-signing the All-Star for less money or looking for other free agents. With Davis at age 29 and DeRozan at age 32, the Bulls can afford to keep their core for at least 4 or 5 more years.
Los Angeles Lakers Clean Up The Roster, Go All-In With The King
The Lakers’ roster, as currently constructed, does not work. LeBron James is untouchable, because even at age 37 going on 38, he can help lead the Lakers to at least one more championship. Russell Westbrook does not fit with LeBron on the court, because both players need the ball to be effective and there is no way Russ will be given priority over The King. Of course, bringing Westbrook off the bench was not an option because the former MVP’s pride is far too strong. Instead of forcing Russ to co-exist with James on the court, they can give LeBron the ball on every occasion and surround him with more suitable playmakers and scorers.
The Lakers won the NBA title in 2020, with Alex Caruso bringing big minutes as a two-way guard, and the fans would welcome him back in a heartbeat. No question, Caruso is a starting-caliber guard for the Lakers and he can be the starting shooting guard who can space the floor and play lockdown defense. Similarly, Lonzo Ball was taken No. 2 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, but did not have the start many expected of him. But Ball is an upgrade for the Lakers in terms of shooting and defense because he shot 42.3% from three this year and is a natural playmaker.
Most importantly, Zach LaVine will give James a go-to scoring option who can create his own offense. More so than Westbrook, LaVine can space the floor alongside James and can replace Davis’ scoring presence as he averaged 24.4 PPG on the court. Surrounding James with three guards that can shoot and defend is exactly what the Lakers ordered, and all players coming in bring in youth. Finally, Patrick Williams, at age 20, brings more youth and energy for a Lakers team that is sorely lacking both things. Williams is a 6’7” power forward with two seasons under his belt, although he only appeared in 17 games this season. As a shooter and capable athlete, Williams could be a vital contributor to the Lakers because he was taken No. 4 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Overall, the Lakers need to surround James with shooters and defenders, something this deal will give them. Anthony Davis is the best player in the deal, but Los Angeles does not have the time window that Chicago has in risking another injury-filled season by the big man. Acquiring 4 young players who bring energy and shooting would give the Lakers the squad to win the Western Conference.
This Blockbuster Deal Changes The Landscape Of The NBA, Lakers Will Be The Favorites
Without a doubt, this blockbuster deal will change the landscape of the NBA. Chicago needs to avoid the risk of losing Zach LaVine for nothing, even if they engage in a sign-and-trade deal with another team. There is no way the Bulls will get a player on the talent level of Davis because guys like Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Stephen Curry are all untradeable. Beyond the top-5 or top-7 players in the league that are unavailable, the most realistic player to attain has to be Anthony Davis. The Chicago Bulls finished 6th in the East this year, despite the consistent presence of DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. Acquiring a top-10 talent in Anthony Davis and a veteran point guard in Russell Westbrook would complete a scary-looking starting five.
The Eastern Conference is there for the taking, but the Bulls need to stock up on superstar talent to compete with the likes of the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics that each have multiple All-Stars. With this blockbuster deal, the Bulls can have three All-Star-caliber players and a point guard that can at least rebound the ball at a high level and push the pace. As long as Westbrook has the ball, he can be an impactful player. With this deal, the Bulls take a step back in perimeter defense but form one of the best frontcourts in the league with Vucevic and Davis.
No question, this deal favors the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James is still a top-10 player in the game, and based on what we have seen from him in terms of longevity, he will still be at that level during the 2023 season, or at least close to it. The King averaged 30.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 6.2 APG for the Lakers during the year, superstar numbers from an absolute superstar player. Giving James players in Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso, Lonzo Ball, and Patrick Williams change the entire landscape of the NBA.
Once again, the Lakers can start the season as the number one favorite to come out of the West and even win the NBA championship. Except for this time, the pieces fit on paper and in theory. James gets his playmaking help in Lonzo Ball and a superstar who can carry an offense in Zach LaVine. James also gets defenders led by Alex Caruso, who is without a doubt one of the best defensive guards in the game. Patrick Williams, even if we have only seen 88 games from him, brings youth and energy while potentially becoming an impact player one day due to his versatile skill set.
The Lakers went for All-Star names before the 2022 season, but this time, they will go for players that fit around LeBron James better. We have received a great indication of which Lakers players should be returning: Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, and Wenyen Gabriel because they all bring youth and energy on both ends of the floor. By taking Chicago’s starters and surrounding them with LeBron James and capable role players could be the way forward for the Lakers winning the West.