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The Blockbuster Trade That Could Happen This Summer: Russell Westbrook To Charlotte Hornets, Gordon Hayward And Kelly Oubre Jr To Los Angeles Lakers

There is no doubt that the Charlotte Hornets are an up-and-coming team led by All-Star LaMelo Ball and the improving Miles Bridges. They are currently fighting for the playoffs this year, and there isn’t much expectation on the team over the next few seasons. Ball is only 20 years old and has yet to grow into his “man body” just yet.

By pulling the deal for Russell Westbrook, who is making $47 million next year, they have a chance to give LaMelo and Bridges a roster with plenty of cap space. That means in a few years’ time when Ball and Bridges have more experience under the belt, the Hornets have the space to sign free agents and acquire All-Star-caliber players to help take the team to the promised land.

By taking on Russell Westbrook (who will turn 34 next year), the Hornets are stunting their short-term growth because Kelly Oubre Jr (15.1 PPG on 34.5% 3-PT FG) is one of their better players. Gordon Hayward (15.9 PPG on 39.1% 3-PT FG) has only played 49 games but has been a solid outside shooter when healthy. There is no doubt that Westbrook is not the most natural fit alongside LaMelo Ball.

But considering what Russ has had to endure over the past few seasons, he might accept a 6th man role for the Hornets or start improving his outside shooting in the offseason. Perhaps most importantly, there is no secret that Michael Jordan is a fan of Russ as a basketball player. Jordan approved of Westbrook’s effort when he is on the floor, and he certainly plays hard in a competitive fashion. Whether that leads to efficiency is another topic for discussion, but acquiring Westbrook would certainly give Jordan more excitement about his current squad.

The Hornets are overpaying for Hayward (over $60 million over the next two seasons), and Oubre Jr is a necessary sacrifice to get rid of the swingman’s contract. Unlike the Lakers who are in win-now mode, the Hornets can afford to take on Westbrook for the sake of clearing cap space for the future. Russ is off the books after next season, and it is almost certain the former MVP will accept his player option next year.

Hornets fans might also have something to look forward to in a possible rejuvenated Westbrook who will find it much easier to play in Charlotte instead of Los Angeles where every inefficiency in his game is under a microscope.

Lakers Can Win Now, Hornets Can Focus On The Future

Overall, this deal makes sense for both teams. The Lakers need to win right now because James will be turning 38 years old next year. The King is still easily a top-10 player in the game, and Davis has top-5 potential. Together, they helped create a championship side in 2020. The team’s calling card was defense and outside shooting, both things that Russell Westbrook cannot provide at this stage of his career.

Rather, Hayward can make threes at a very high clip while also providing size on the wing. Kelly Oubre Jr brings youth, energy, and defensive potential to a squad sorely lacking all three things. Losing the first-round pick might sting a little, but they are getting back two starting-caliber wings for the price of a poorly fit point guard.

Meanwhile, the Hornets focus on the future. They are not going to win in a loaded Eastern Conference as currently constructed. The Bucks, Heat, Nets, 76ers, and Celtics are all miles ahead of Charlotte at this point. LaMelo Ball has superstar potential, but he is a few years away from reaching it. Instead, the Hornets can clear space by moving Hayward and Oubre Jr to sign a legitimate All-Star to pair with Ball and Miles Bridges.

Perhaps most importantly, Charlotte fans get a chance to watch the twilight years of one of the most athletic point guards in NBA history, while also watching their owner Michael Jordan happily watch from the sidelines. The future is bright in Charlotte, and the franchise should focus on the dynamic pairing of Ball and Bridges. Acquiring Russ would be interesting for next season because, after that, the sky is the limit for them.

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