The Los Angeles Lakers waited roughly 24 hours to give LeBron James his gift for becoming the NBA’s all-time scoring leader: They parted with both Russell Westbrook and one of their coveted remaining first-round draft picks.

Westbrook and the team’s 2027 first-round draft pick are headed to the Utah Jazz as part of a three-team deal that returns former Lakers draft pick D’Angelo Russell to L.A. from Minnesota, along with Jazz wings Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt. The Timberwolves receive, in part, Jazz point guard Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The Lakers' Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones also go to Utah as part of the deal. 

The consensus among rival scouts: a good-to-great haul for the Lakers. Enough to potentially get them into the playoffs despite currently sitting 13th in the Western Conference, two games out of the final postseason play-in slot and four games behind the Dallas Mavericks, who hold the sixth and last guaranteed playoff berth.

"Short-term desperation," one Western Conference scout said, "but they should make the play-in tournament now. I don’t see them getting to sixth. They’re for sure a threat [to pull a first-round upset], depending on the matchup."

Westbrook’s name has been in trade rumors consistently since last season — his first in purple and gold — ended with the Lakers finishing 33-49 and in 11th place. He agreed to come off the bench this season after another rough start and flourished as the leader of the Lakers’ second unit, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy the Lakers — or James, who had lobbied for the team to acquire him but clearly lost faith in him once they were teammates.

Keeping Westbrook beyond this year’s trade deadline became untenable a few days ago when James expressed his disappointment in not acquiring former teammate Kyrie Irving, a move that would’ve presumably required sending Westbrook to Brooklyn. Irving was dealt to the Mavericks earlier in the week.

Scouts are cautiously optimistic that Russell will be a better fit than Westbrook as a more proven off-the-ball threat, allowing the Lakers to play him in the starting lineup alongside James. One reason Westbrook found success off the bench is that it gave him more time on the floor with James off it, both at their best as the primary ball-handler. Russell is a decent one-on-one threat, but as a 39% 3-point shooter, opponents are going to be far more reluctant to leave him open on the perimeter when he doesn’t have the ball as well. It also helps that two-thirds of his 3s have been assisted, reflecting his catch-and-shoot capability.