There’s been growing rumors that the Los Angeles Lakers might move off struggling All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook ahead of the February 10 NBA trade deadline.
That was magnified recently when Lakers head coach Frank Vogel opted to bench Westbrook in the fourth quarter of a game against the Indiana Pacers. This led to even more speculation that the Lakers’ brass is unhappy with Russ mere months after giving up a ton of assets to acquire the former NBA MVP.
The backdrop here is a continued rumor that the Lakers have discussed a trade that would send Westbrook back to the Houston Rockets for fellow veteran John Wall.
Now comes this note from NBA insider Marc Stein concluding that Los Angeles is unwilling to meet Houston’s asking price in a potential trade. Rockets general manager is willing to make a Westbrook-for-Wall swap, acquiring the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick in the process. The idea would be to buy Westbrook out.
“A trade with the Houston Rockets to ship out Russell Westbrook is on the proverbial table for the Los Angeles Lakers,” Stein noted. “The Lakers, though, appear determined to stick with Westbrook through at least the rest of the season — which means holding onto their 2027 first-round draft pick for other potential trade opportunities.”
This makes sense in that the Lakers have already yielded a ton of draft capital in separate trades for both Westbrook and Anthony Davis. Under league rules, the team can’t move its first-round selection until 2027. Said pick might end up being valuable depending on how long LeBron James extends his already long career.
Related: Los Angeles Lakers trade rumors
Is a Russell Westbrook trade to the Houston Rockets still in the cards?
Remember, Los Angeles dealt away Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and its 2021 first-round pick to acquire Westbrook last summer. It does not have the assets (in terms of either young players or draft picks) to upgrade what has been a disappointing roster.
The Lakers currently sit at 24-24 on the season and as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. For his part, Westbrook has struggled throughout the campaign.
- Russell Westbrook stats (2021-22): 18.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 7.7 APG, 44% shooting, 29% three-point
The 33-year-old Westbrook also has a player option of $47.06 million for 2021-22, one that he will undoubtedly exercise. This makes him negative trade asset.
Enter into the equation John Wall. The five-time All-Star has not played for Houston this season as the team continues to value playing youngsters. He, too, has a pretty horrible contract in the grand scheme of things. The injury-plagued Wall boasts a $47.37 million player option for next season.
Related: Ideal John Wall trade scenarios
With that said, he played pretty well with Houston last season after being acquired from the Washington Wizards in a trade involving Westbrook.
- John Wall stats (2020-21): 20.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 40% shhoting, 32% three-point
While the numbers might be similar, Wall is seen as a much better all-around player than the current iteration of Russell Westbrook. He’s also 100% healthy.
So, how might a trade work if Los Angeles is not willing to offer up its first-round pick in 2027? Perhaps, Houston decides that acquiring the remaining young assets Los Angeles boasts could be enough to take on (and buy out) Westbrook.
Talen Horton-Tucker was seen as a legitimate future star heading into the 2021-22 season. While the wing has struggled after signing a long-term extension, he’s still only 21 years old and offers a ton of upside. Undrafted rookie free agent Austin Reeves could also be of interest. Something like this makes sense in this regard.
- Lakers get: John Wall, Daniel Theis
- Rockets get: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reeves, two second-round picks
Either way, this will continue to be a major storyline around the Association leading up to the February 10 NBA trade deadline.
For now, no trade appears to be imminent.