Back in July, the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards agreed on a trade centered around former MVP, Russell Westbrook. Nearly four months later and the Lakers might have some buyer’s remorse while the Wizards are riding high.
The Lakers currently have an 8-8 record despite playing the fifth-easiest schedule in the league thus far this season. Meanwhile, the Wizards are 10-4, first in the Eastern Conference, and have played the sixth-easiest schedule in the NBA.
While the Wizards will likely level out some and won’t be the first seed in the Eastern Conference and while the Lakers should play better once LeBron James gets healthy, as it stands right now, it is pretty easy to say one thing.
The Washington Wizards are a better basketball team than the Los Angeles Lakers.
Do the Lakers have a higher ceiling than the Wizards? Absolutely. There is a world in which the Lakers figure it out with Westbrook and make it to the NBA Finals while everything could go right for the Wizards and their ceiling feels like it would be the Eastern Conference Finals (if Milwaukee and Brooklyn played each other in the first two rounds).
However, assuming that the Lakers will figure it out with Westbrook is a big if and there is a better chance that the Wizards maintain this level of play, get lucky with the playoff seeding and make a deeper run.
The Lakers have given us zero reason to think otherwise. Yes, LeBron James is the most decorated player in the league today and still an elite player when he is at his best but can we really expect the same LeBron anymore?
The guy has already sustained two injuries that he has missed time for this season and the entire reason why the Lakers fell short last year was that Anthony Davis got hurt and LeBron had a bum ankle.
Heck, it might be more likely that the Wizards continue playing like this than it is for LeBron to be 90% healthy for the playoffs.
The Wizards’ depth is just better than the Lakers. Bradley Beal is a true no. 1 star and while he might not be good enough without another superstar to win a title, he is someone who can lead this team to a deep playoff run.
The Wizards have legitimate depth around him. Montrezl Harrell is playing exceptionally well this season and is legitimately playing like one of the best players in the entire NBA. Daniel Gafford, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie, Aaron Holiday, Deni Avdija and even Kyle Kuzma are all legitimate NBA players who would be in the Lakers’ rotation and are better than some of the players that LA has in the rotation.
More importantly: the Washington Wizards know who they are. They have an identity and they are a team that has a massive chip on its shoulder. Several players have been “discarded” to the Nation’s Capital and they are playing like they have something to prove.
Wizards fans have to love the state the team is in. Even if they lose in the first or second round this year, they might just be in a better spot to contend in the immediate future than the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was a risky move when it was made and it is pretty clear already that the Wizards won the Westbrook trade and it is not even close.