To the chagrin of Los Angeles Lakers fans, Russell Westbrook was not traded during the Feb. NBA trade deadline. However, the former MVP is likely to be moved in the offseason for two particular reasons.
The 2021-2022 NBA season in LA has been a nightmare for Westbook. The three-headed monster that was supposed to be him, Lebron James, and Anthony Davis have failed miserably as the team sits in ninth place in the Western Conference standings with a 27-34 record.
The marriage of the superstar trio has lacked chemistry for much of the season and it has led to some of Westbrooks’s worst numbers in years. While they were unable to move the former Oklahoma City Thunder star in a trade last month, there are two key reasons he could be leaving Lala Land this summer.
Los Angeles Lakers will have the draft capital needed to facilitate a deal
At the trade deadline, Westbrook still had a ton of money left on his contract. Along with the double-digit millions owed to him this year, he is set to make another $47 million (via Sportsrac) next season. That is a huge amount to take on for a shell of an All-Star, without getting something notable in return — such as draft picks.
- Russell Westbrook stats (2021-2022): 18.1 PPG, 7.7 REB, 7.3 AST
In a Wednesday article from Bleacher Report’s NBA writer Jake Fischer, he explained that the team was in negotiations to move Westbrook to Houston last month, however, they were unwilling to part with their 2027 first-round pick. But, moving that pick will become far more palatable this offseason when another pick further down the line becomes available.
“The Lakers’ trade deadline discussions with the Houston Rockets for a potential Russell Westbrook-John Wall swap didn’t generate significant traction, sources said, as the Lakers were resistant to including their 2027 first-round pick in any deal to offload Westbrook’s salary,” Fischer wrote. “League observers have pointed to this offseason as a greater opportunity for the Lakers to shed Westbrook’s contract, when they will be eligible to move their 2029 first-round pick. “
Russell Westbrook’s expiring deal becomes a valuable chip in 2023
In today’s NBA, expiring contracts can be as valuable a commodity as draft picks or talented players. Freeing up cap space is a pursuit of every team before, during, and after the season. Some teams certainly had less interest in Westbrook knowing they would have to pay him close to $60 million if they traded for him in February.
- Russell Westbrook contract: 1 year, $47.0 million remaining
However, with a deal in the offseason, they would only have one expensive year left. And if he has a bounce-back season in 2022-2023 he could become a valuable commodity at the trade deadline for teams looking to shed cap space and start anew in the offseason.
“Other team personnel have optimism Westbrook will become more movable once his contract becomes an expiring contract,” says Fischer. “Maybe there will be an opportunity to offload Westbrook at the cost of that 2027 first-rounder when the Lakers would still have the 2029 pick at their disposal heading into the season.”
The Lakers return to action to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday’s NBA game today schedule.