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Los Angeles Lakers Receive: PG Ben Simmons, G/F Evan Fournier
Brooklyn Nets Receive: PF Julius Randle, C Nerlens Noel, 2027 first-round pick (lottery-protected, via Los Angeles Lakers)
New York Knicks Receive: PG Kendrick Nunn, G/F Talen Horton-Tucker, PG Russell Westbrook (to be bought out), 2023 second-round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers)
Let the fireworks fly.
In this blockbuster full of disappointing stars in need of some new scenery, the Lakers and Nets boost their championship chances while the Knicks use Westbrook’s expiring deal to reset their finances.
Let’s start in L.A., as the Lakers get to move off Westbrook’s remaining $47.1 million contract while getting back two quality starters in return. Simmons would become the newest Lakers point guard, and he now has a whole offseason to rest his ailing back and would get to train and rebuild his confidence next to fellow Klutch client LeBron James. The two have shared a relationship going back to Simmons’ LSU days when he would sit courtside at Cleveland Cavaliers games to watch James, and the four-time MVP would take the 25-year-old three-time All-Star under his wing.
A lineup featuring Simmons, James and Anthony Davis would require a good amount of shooting around them, however, and Fournier averaged 14.1 points per game for the Knicks last season while hitting nearly 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes. Getting rid of Westbrook while adding Simmons and Fournier is worth giving up young talent and future picks for, especially if it helps convince James to sign an extension or re-sign with the franchise in 2023. The move also saves the Lakers $9.1 million this year.
The Nets got nothing out of Simmons following a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers and should be more than willing to move him this summer for more reliable help around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn has a fair amount of talent returning in the backcourt and on the wing (Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Cam Thomas) but could use some frontcourt help.
Randle isn’t a No. 1 option, and that’s OK. Instead, he’d be the starting power forward for a Nets team that could use him more as a playmaking big, one who’d have a lot less defensive attention paid to him on a loaded Brooklyn squad. While his efficiency dropped this season, the 27-year-old still averaged 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in his 35.3 minutes.
With Nic Claxton (restricted), LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin all hitting free agency, the Nets could use Noel for some center depth. He’d be a great fit as a defensive-minded big who doesn’t need to touch the ball on offense to make an impact overall. Brooklyn also gets the Lakers’ next available first-round pick in 2027.
The Knicks should have no interest in Westbrook, but they’d use his expiring deal to help shed the long-term contracts of Randle and Fournier. They aren’t ready to win now and should be prioritizing the growth of RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and others while freeing up future cap space and adding picks.
Westbrook would be an immediate buyout candidate, with the Knicks looking to shave off whatever they can from his $47.1 million contract. The deal opens up $36 million in cap space ($47 million if Horton-Tucker declines his player option) for New York in the summer of 2023, when James, Zion Williamson, James Harden, Khris Middleton, Fred VanVleet, Jerami Grant, Myles Turner and others could be available.
The Knicks also get Horton-Tucker (21) and Nunn (26) to help with their rebuild, as well as a second-rounder from the Lakers in 2023 in addition to massive salary relief.
Stats via NBA.com unless otherwise noted.