The NBA Draft hadn’t even commenced when the Lakers stole the night.
The Lakers were putting the final touches on a blockbuster deal to acquire former NBA Most Valuable Player and nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook from the Wizards. This was shortly before Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State, as expected, went No. 1 overall to the Pistons.
Westbrook would join LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers to give them the kind of star power that the Nets have with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden and install them as one of the favorites to win the 2021-22 NBA championship.
In return the Wizards would get Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers’ 2021 first-round pick, at No. 22, according to ESPN.
The field of prospective picks in the draft included several talents with high ceilings, but none appeared more transformational than Cunningham, a 6-8 point guard who averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists when he was selected to the All-America team. As a freshman he made 40% of his three-point attempts, was a strong defender and crafted a reputation for making big plays late in games.
Asked about potentially being labeled "Motor Cade" in the Motor City, Cunningham said, "I’m all the way in — let’s do it!"
Detroit last had the No. 1 overall pick in 1970 when it selected Hall of Famer Bob Lanier.
The Rockets selected 6-6 shooting guard Jalen Green from the G League Ignite with the second overall pick. At No. 3, Cleveland selected 7-foot Southern Cal center Evan Mobley.
Jalen Suggs, the 6-4 point guard from NCAA Tournament runner-up Gonzaga, was thought to be the favorite to go in with the fourth selection to the Raptors, but they chose Florida State’s 6-8 swingman Scottie Barnes. Suggs went to the Magic at No. 5. The Magic also selected Michigan swingman Franz Wagner at No. 8.
The Thunder selected Australian Josh Giddey at No. 6.
The Warriors, who went in with two of the top 14 picks and were looking to make a trade, did not consummate a deal before making their first selection. They chose G League Ignite big man Jonathan Kuminga at No. 7.
Davion Mitchell of national champion Baylor went to the Kings at No. 9 .
UConn star James Bouknight — a Brooklyn product — was selected by the Hornets at No. 11.
As for the possible Westbrook trade, the Wizards want to re-sign Bradley Beal to a long-term extension and now would have the cap space to do it. By making the deal with the Lakers, the Wizards have the space to give him a max deal.
The Lakers also were engaged in trade talks with the same package going to Sacramento for Buddy Hield. On Thursday, they changed directions to line up with Washington.