Pacific Notes: Wiggins, Westbrook, Kyrie, LeBron

Fresh off his first NBA title and All-Star selection in 2021/22, Warriors starting small forward Andrew Wiggins is hoping to prove his mettle as one of the NBA’s best defensive players, as he told Vince Carter on the retired eight-time All-Star’s podcast, The VC Show with Vince Carter (h/t to Andrei de Guzman of TalkBasket).

“One thing I’m really gonna strive for this upcoming season is being on the [All-]Defensive Team,” Wiggins said. “That’s a big goal of mine, and hopefully I opened some eyes in the playoffs and I can be on the radar. I ain’t get not one vote this year! I took it personal in the playoffs!”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • With Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James newly signed to a lucrative extension that will at least keep him in Los Angeles through 2024, it’s possible that L.A. will be more receptive to including draft capital in a trade to get off the contract of embattled point guard Russell Westbrook, opines Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Pincus suspects that Westbrook could be moved to the Nets, Pacers or Spurs, should the Lakers indeed be willing to part with their 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks. Pincus notes that the Jazz also have the assets to possibly pique the interest of the Lakers’ front office in a deal. During his first season with his hometown team, the 33-year-old veteran proved to be an awkward on-court fit alongside James as a ball-dominant guard without a jump shot or much defensive effort.
  • Prior to his inking the aforementioned extension with the Lakers, James was “privately adamant” about wanting the Lakers trade for his former Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Whether such a transaction for the seven-time All-Star, currently with the Nets, comes to pass remains to be seen.
  • The new two-year, $97.1MM contract extension James signed with the Lakers can benefit both James and Los Angeles, opines Dave McMenamin of ESPN (YouTube video link). By opting to commit to the Lakers at this juncture (the extension could have been signed as late as next summer), James has given the team the green light to make moves around him in order to hopefully resume deep playoff runs. In turn, the 17-time championship-winning Lakers want to showcase themselves as a desirable landing place for marquee free agents in the years to come. McMenamin adds that, should L.A. prove unable to compete at a championship level within the next two seasons, James is able to retain some of his future flexibility to an extent by making the second year of the deal, the 2024/25 season, a player option.
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