Lakers Rumors: Buzz on Russell Westbrook Trade, Isaiah Thomas and Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2021

Lakers Rumors: Buzz on Russell Westbrook Trade, Isaiah Thomas and Free Agency

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers should be among the top contenders in the Western Conference this season. While injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis derailed their 2020-21 campaign, both superstars are back with a fresh supporting cast.

    The most notable move L.A. made this offseason was the trade for nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook. Adding Westbrook gives the Lakers a third elite option, which should help the team better navigate a James or Davis injury should one arise.

    Of course, not everyone in the NBA world believes that Westbrook and the Lakers are a perfect pairing. Here, we'll dive into some of the latest buzz surrounding the trade and L.A.'s search for its final few roster pieces.

Some Execs Don't Believe in Westbrook's Fit with Lakers

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    While the Lakers were thrilled to land Westbrook—they parted with a first-round pick, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to get him—some outside the organization are lower on the acquisition.

    ESPN's Tim Bontemps recently conducted a poll of anonymous NBA scouts and executives, and two named the Westbrook trade the worst move of the offseason. 

    "Look, I'm trying to give LeBron the benefit of the doubt on this," a Western Conference scout said, per Bontemps. "But given what they could've done, I don't see that fit working out over the course of the season. I'm a huge Westbrook fan. I just don't like the fit."

    An argument could be made that Los Angeles would have been better off trading for an elite perimeter shooter like Buddy Hield instead of Westbrook. Strategically, pairing the duo with a spot-up weapon like Hield would make a ton of sense.

    However, coach Frank Vogel is looking to turn the Westbrook addition into an unstoppable transition offense.

    "I think we're going to be an extremely dynamic fast breaking team, and one that can play off of all three guys, in many different ways," Vogel said, per Jacob Rude of Silver Screen and Roll. "I think with the speed, athleticism of those guys plus the complementary parts we put together, the shooters and the defenders, I think we got a real chance this year to do something special."

    And while the Lakers didn't land Hield, they did upgrade their perimeter shooting by adding Wayne Ellington (42.2 percent from three-point range last season), Malik Monk (40.1) and Kendrick Nunn (38.1 percent) in free agency.

Lakers Worked Out Isaiah Thomas Before His 81-Point Game

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Westbrook, Monk, Ellington and Nunn are not the only additions Los Angeles made this offseason. The Lakers also added Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Kent Kent Bazemore and Dwight Howard. They're not done either.

    According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers are looking to add at least two more players this offseason:

    "The Lakers, who have 12 players under guaranteed contracts, will go into the 2021-22 season carrying 14 players in order to maintain flexibility, sources said. Each team can carry a maximum of 15 players and two two-way players. A third point guard is a priority, sources said, along with potentially adding another wing."

    Per Haynes, Los Angeles has worked out Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison and Mike James. Thomas, a former teammate of James, is an intriguing option. While he only appeared in three games last season, he recently dropped 81 points in a game at the Crawsover Pro-Am in Seattle. That performance caught the eye of James.

    "Yessir Killa!! Keep going my G!" James tweeted after Thomas' big outing.

    It's worth noting that Thomas' 81-point game wasn't the impetus behind his workout with the Lakers. According to NBA Insider Marc Stein, the workout came before the Crawsover Pro-Am.

    "I'm told that the Lakers’ private workout with Thomas, for the record, took place before he scored 81 points in a pro/am game in Seattle," Stein wrote.

    Thomas' 81-point performance only demonstrated why the Lakers are interested in adding him.

JaKarr Sampson, Tim Frazier Among Free-Agent Options

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    While the Lakers are pondering Thomas, Collison and James, they're weighing other free-agent options as well.

    Earlier this month, Stein reported that James Ennis III is a potential target.

    "For the Lakers, wing depth is more important than a backup guard. James Ennis is a name that's been mentioned for the Lakers," Stein wrote.

    More recently, Stein mentioned JaKarr Sampson and Tim Frazier as free agents who could be on L.A.'s radar.

    "Forward JaKarr Sampson, who spent the past two seasons in Indiana, and veteran guard Tim Frazier are two more free-agent names that have emerged as candidates for the two roster spots that the Lakers plan to fill," Stein wrote.

    The reality is that while the Lakers don't have the financial flexibility to chase a premier player or make another blockbuster trade, they do have multiple options for rounding out the roster.

    At this point, expect factors like upside and scheme fit to weigh heavily in the Lakers' decision. It wouldn't be a total shock to see the Lakers begin training camp before determining which options will be best for the 2021-22 season.