The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be active between now and the February 10 NBA trade deadline. The struggling team already sent Rajon Rondo packing in a three-team trade in order to create an extra roster spot.
Meanwhile, rumors have persisted that the Lakers are having internal discussions about trading point guard Russell Westbrook. He’s struggled to fit in with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in his first season with the Lakers.
Despite some better play as of late, Westbrook seems to be a square peg in a round hole with the Lakers. We’re now hearing reports that Los Angeles is “covertly” looking to move off Russ. It comes with a caveat that a deal remains unlikely due to Westbrook’s bloated contract, per Sam Amick of The Athletic.
- Russell Westbrook contract: Player option of $47.06 million for 2021-22
As you can see, that’s the biggest hiccup in a potential trade. Right now, there’s no real reason to believe Westbrook will decline said option and become a free agent this summer. Short of him guaranteeing an acquiring team this will be the case, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to have a hard time dealing Russ.
Los Angeles Lakers admitting Russell Westbrook mistake?
It was just back in August of 2021 that the Lakers moved off Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell to the Wizards in a five-team trade that brought back Westbrook.
To an extent, this was seen as desperation after an ugly first-round exit in the playoffs just a few weeks earlier. The idea was to find a third star for King James and Mr. Davis. It has not panned out.
Los Angeles finds itself at 20-19 and as the seventh seed in the Western Conference. Right now, it would be partaking in the play-in tournament, like we saw a season ago. This lack of progression coupled with Davis’ injury and Westbrook’s performance has the Lakers looking like a pretender.
- Russell Westbrook stats (2021-22): 19.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.1 APG, 45% shooting, 30% three-point, 15.9 PER
On the surface, these numbers might seem good. But as one big time NBA player suggests, it’s been more about filling up the stat board. Just look at the numbers of the three players Los Angeles included in the trade for Westbrook thus far this season.
- Kyle Kuzma stats: 14.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 44% shooting, 34% three-point, 13.9 PER
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stats: 10.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 40% shooting, 37% three-point, 10.8 PER
- Montrezl Harrell stats: 14.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 65% shooting, 25.0 PER
That’s just eye-opening. Individually, Westbrook has been better than these three. Collectively, Washington won the trade going away. It’s not close. No wonder the Wizards, despite their recent struggles, boast nearly an identical record as Washington.
Right now, it appears that the general manager Rob Pelinka and the Lakers have all but admitted trading for Westbrook was a mistake.
Can the Los Angeles Lakers pull off a Russell Westbrook trade?
We wouldn’t put it past this heralded franchise. LeBron James remains a draw. Los Angeles does, too. Meanwhile, NBA players have proven that it’s easier to demand a trade than in other major professional sports leagues.
The question here becomes whether any move to rid themselves of Westbrook’s contract would make Los Angeles a lot better. At the very least, would it turn this team into a legit conference title contender with the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz? This seems unlikely.
In order to move Westbrook, the Lakers would have to take on a bloated contract. That includes some of the following players:
- John Wall, Houston Rockets
- Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Buddy Hield, Sacramento Kings
- Al Horford, Boston Celtics
This is also assuming any of the teams mentioned above would be interested in Russ. It’s also assuming the Lakers would be willing to give up what ever draft picks and young assets they have to acquire a difference-maker — something that none of the players mentioned above are at this point in their careers.
In short, the Los Angeles Lakers are stuck. They have admitted their Russell Westbrook mistake. It’s now all about LeBron James going nuclear and somehow changing the narrative in Southern California.
We wouldn’t put it past him.