The Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA Draft night trade for Russell Westbrook creates a problem for the competition in the West - and creates two problems for the Dallas Mavericks.
The first one is obvious: Westbrook is an All-Star stat machine and Lakers have super-teamed themselves by swapping a bundle of supporting-cast pieces to line him up alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. We can engage in all sorts of arguments about how “L.A. will lack spacing” and about how their perimeter shooting will be poor.
But on paper, they now have three times as many superstars as Luka Doncic’s Mavs employ.
That’s one problem.
The other problem addresses the fact the Lakers’ roster isn’t done being built yet. Think they can’t snap their fingers - now as much as ever - and add shooting?
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Last season, Ntilikina appeared in just 33 games and averaged a career-low 9.8 minutes per game, so the Mavs are taking on a reclamation project.
And when they bid on cheap ring-chasing vets … bidding on some of the same players Dallas will court … which team will the free agents find more attractive?
The Lakers will pay $121 million to their Big 3. That precludes them from adding more pricy talent, but doesn’t step them from adding talent.
Dallas has its own cap limitations and is trying to add the likes of Kyle Lowry (no lock with the Pelicans looming) while retaining Tim Hardaway Jr. to work with Luka. That’s a step up from treading water, but it doesn’t step up the Mavs to the Lakers’ level.
And unfortunately, other available players are likely to see the two suitors just that way.
Los Angeles represents a Mavericks problem once the NBA season starts. But free agency opens on Monday. And the Lakers represent a Mavs problem on that day, too.