If the season ended today, the Lakers would be the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference and the Celtics would be the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference. Both teams would be forced to play in the play-in game for their spot in the standings. This is quite a dropoff for a Celtics team that made the Conference Finals a few years ago, while the Lakers were the 2020 champions.
Before the season began, the Lakers made the move to acquire Russell Westbrook. This was supposed to be the move to form a Big 3 with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The team has underperformed and now there are questions about the team’s future moving forward.
What if there was a way to salvage the season, not only for the Lakers but for the Celtics as well? Both teams need a change to get out of being average. This move would be a low-risk, high reward that could help both teams accomplish what they want this season.
Boston Celtics Receive: Russell Westbrook
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Marcus Smart, Al Horford, 2023 Second-Round Pick (Via Portland)
The Celtics Form A True Big 3
The Celtics are 18-19 on the season and have not found a way to play consistently at all. The locker room unity appears to be in shambles. The true leader of the team feels unknown. One would think it is Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds (career-high), and 3.8 assists. Another option is Jaylen Brown, who is coming off a 50-point night against the Magic. He is averaging 24.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists.
Both are great players, but they need a true alpha dog. Westbrook may not be the true alpha dog in terms of basketball skills right now, but his demeanor is all about winning and playing hard. Westbrook would actually be a perfect fit alongside Brown and Tatum with those intangibles.
The team signed Kemba Walker a few years back thinking that he would form the Big 3 necessary to get them over the hump. Instead, the team came up short in 2020 against the Heat, a series where Walker was exposed. Westbrook can handle the ball, something he is accustomed to doing in his career. Westbrook thrives playing alongside shooters. This would allow Westbrook to get back to being a ball-dominant force, penetrate the lane, and help Brown and Tatum succeed even more.
The Lakers Get True Complementary Pieces To Surround LeBron/AD
If this trade happened, the new starting lineup would feature Marcus Smart, Malik Monk, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Al Horford or Dwight Howard. There is also the option of moving LeBron back to point guard, while Talen Horton Tucker plays the small forward position. Horford would be the better option defensively next to Davis (when healthy). The theory is that Westbrook would have formed a Big 3 and the three superstars would help the team get back to the NBA Finals. Instead, the team needs more complementary pieces.
Smart is a tenacious defense that can handle the ball. Smart would be a better defensive option than Westbrook. Horford is averaging a career-high for blocks right now with 1.6. Pairing that with Davis would help improve the team defense even more. These are true complementary pieces that the Lakers need.
In 2020, the Lakers had a top defense, while LeBron led the league in assists. Right now, LeBron is having to score too much and the team is barely holding onto a winning record. It’s time the Lakers get back to running as a team, rather than having the stats stuffed by their superstars.
Low-Risk, High-Reward For Both Teams
Imagine if the teams stood pat and nothing changed. Both teams would be .500 teams and be at the bottom of the playoff standings. A play-in game is not what anyone wants. The Lakers are in an even more tenuous spot because LeBron is 37 years old. The championship window is not open for long when your best player is reaching the tail-end of their career.
Granted, LeBron could probably play another four years. However, he is an outlier. He is playing like an MVP candidate this season, but the record is not showing it. The team needs to ride this superb play from LeBron and take a risk. At some point, you have to ask the difficult question: Can the team win a championship with Russell Westbrook?
The answer is no. If the Celtics get Westbrook, the trio of him, Brown, and Tatum might be good enough to have the Celtics back in the conversation for contending in the East. As for the complementary pieces in Smart and Horford, these on paper are great surrounding pieces for LeBron and Davis. Given that the salaries match up well, this could be something the Lakers need to think hard about.