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Lakers agree to trade Russell Westbrook in three-team deal

The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to trade guard Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz in a three-team deal, according to three people familiar with the trade who were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

As part of the trade, the Lakers will receive Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, whom they drafted No. 2 overall in 2015 and then traded after just two seasons.

The deal was first reported by ESPN.

The deal will end Westbrook’s tumultuous and brief tenure with the Lakers. The Washington Wizards traded Westbrook to the Lakers ahead of the 2021-22 season, giving the Lakers high hopes he would be part of a so-called superteam with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. To acquire Westbrook, the Lakers traded several players who were crucial to their championship run in 2020. It didn’t work out.

Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and the most valuable player of 2017, is versatile and athletic at his best, easily able to fill box scores. But in Los Angeles, Westbrook struggled to adjust to coming off the bench and not being the primary ball handler. That, along with his below average perimeter shot, reduced his chances of fitting in with James and Davis.

The Lakers (25-30) are out of the Western Conference playoff draw, despite their championship aspirations. Westbrook has averaged 16.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game off the bench for the Lakers this season.

Westbrook’s trade will also send Jazz forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, center Damian Jones and a first-round pick in the 2027 draft. The Jazz will mark Westbrook’s fifth team in five years, a level move unusual for a former MVP still relatively close to his prime.

The Jazz will send Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers, and they will trade Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to Minnesota.

Russell, 26, who had been with Minnesota since the 2019-20 season, had a rocky career. The Lakers traded him to the Nets in 2017, ahead of his third season. He earned an All-Star selection with the Nets in 2019 but was traded to Golden State that summer on a sign-and-trade deal for Kevin Durant. Just months into the 2019-20 season, Golden State traded him to the Timberwolves, where he played alongside close friend Karl-Anthony Towns. The potential was high for another dynamic couple of NBA stars

But Minnesota, like the Lakers, languished in the standings – battling for a playoff spot when expectations were expected to be near the top of the West, especially after acquiring center Rudy Gobert, one of the league’s best defensive players, in a summer trade with Utah.

Even so, Russell averaged 17.9 points and 6.2 assists per game for Minnesota this season, one of the best of his career. Crucially for the Lakers, he’ll provide another shooter as they try to salvage their season: he’s shooting 39.1 percent from deep this season. For his career, he is 36% from 3-point range.

The Lakers will also add several players. Beasley averaged 13.4 points per game for the Jazz this year and shot 35.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Vanderbilt averaged 8.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game on 55.6 percent shooting from the field, mostly off the bench.

Russell’s replacement at Minnesota would be Conley, who has started 42 games at point guard for the surprisingly resilient Jazz this season. Conley, a 2021 All-Star, averaged 7.7 career assists for the Jazz, but his scoring numbers dipped to 10.7 points per game, his lowest output since his second season in the league. He’s a more traditional point guard than Russell and might fit in better next to Anthony Edwards, the third-year guard who has become a franchise player for the Timberwolves.

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