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Russell Westbrook trade talks dormant as teams demand at least one 1st-round pick

Vincent Frank

We’re going to continue hearing a ton of Russell Westbrook trade rumors coming from Southern California as the Los Angeles Lakers attempt to figure out what to do this summer.

Los Angeles is coming off an ugly 49-loss season. Westbrook, 33, was a complete and utter disaster in his first year with the Lakers. It even led to speculation that he might be dealt ahead of the February 10 NBA trade deadline.

Nothing came to fruition on that end with the Lakers’ brass pushing back against attaching draft assets in order to move the former NBA MVP.

With less than a month to go before the 2022 NBA Draft and free agency right around the corner, we’re hearing more on this front. It’s not a good sign for Lakers fans who want to see the organization rid itself of Westbrook.

“Teams have been demanding the inclusion of at least one first-round pick to take on Westbrook’s massive expiring contract. Rival teams know how much of a public trainwreck last season was for the Lakers, and they’re not looking to do Los Angeles any favors by helping them off of Westbrook’s contract.”

The Athletic’s Jovan Buha on Russell Westbrook trade talks

In addition to the regression we saw from Westbrook last season, his contract is a major sticking point. The nine-time All-Star has a player option of $47.06 million for the 2022-23 season. There’s absolutely no reason to believe he’s going to decline said option.

Related: Russell Westbrook and the NBA’s highest-paid players

Russell Westbrook contract and top NBA cap hits

russell westrbrook contract
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an obvious theme here. Despite being on an expiring contract, no team is going to take on Westbrook’s bloated deal without receiving a combination of young players and/or draft picks as sweeteners. He currently boasts the fourth-highest cap hit in the NBA for next season.

  • Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: $48.07 million
  • James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers: $47.37 million
  • John Wall, Houston Rockets: $47.37 million
  • Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers: $47.06 million

Los Angeles had talked to the Rockets about a Westbrook trade for John Wall ahead of the February 10 deadline. Said conversations came to a conclusion without a deal being made when Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Co. refused to attach a 2027 first-round pick.

Related: Updated NBA trade rumors

Russell Westbrook trade continues to be complicated

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of Russ’s bloated salary, Los Angeles lacks true draft capital to offer up in a potential trade given what it yielded for Westbrook ahead of the 2021-22 season and the Anthony Davis blockbuster back in the summer of 2019.

Right now, the Lakers can only part with their first-round pick in either 2027 or 2028. If they wait until after the NBA Draft next month, the Lakers can attach a 2029 first-rounder in a potential trade.

At issue here is Los Angeles’ brass not wanting to give up future assets as the team continues to struggle with an aging veteran in LeBron James and the injury-plagued Davis.

It was a talking about following the NBA trade deadline in February. This is to say, the powers that be remaining inactive as a way to prove a point to LeBron and Co. It’s akin to the old saying, “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” That’s in relation to James pushing for the Westbrook trade in the first place.

Related: Updated Los Angeles Lakers rumors

Avenues for a potential Russell Westbrook trade

John Wall is one obvious option. He sat out the entire 2021-22 season after failing to come to an agreement with the Rockets about a role. Wall is an injury-plagued enigma. He’s suited up in all of 113 games since the end of the 2016-17 season. He’s 31 years old and in the same contractual situation as Westbrook. With that said, Wall might be a better fit in Los Angeles than Westbrook.

  • John Wall stats (2020-21): 20.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 40% shooting, 32% 3-point
  • Russell Westbrook stats (2021-22): 18.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.1 APG, 44% shooting, 30% 3-point

That seems to be pretty much a wash. This is also why it’s understandable that the Lakers wouldn’t want to attach assets. This is especially true given the fact that Wall could potentially be bought out by Houston during the summer.

Again, this is one of the reasons why it’s so complicated. Any Russell Westbrook trade would have to include the Lakers taking on a bad contract And with this recent report, the inclusion of draft assets would also need to be in the cards.

Under this theory, there’s a select few numbers of teams/players who could make sense.

  • Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
  • Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield, Indiana Pacers
  • Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets

Most of these hypotheticals would include teams asking for at least one first-roud pick. In turn, it remains to be seen whether the needle would be moved enough for the Lakers to actually be seen as title contenders out west.

The Charlotte Hornets have been linked to Westbrook over the past several months. Perhaps, a Westbrook for Hayward swap without any draft picks changing hands could work.

As for the Lakers’ reported interest in Grant, they would likely have to attach two first-round picks in order for Detroit to bite the bullet. The same thing can be said about the Indiana Pacers.

Either way, these are the primary reasons that it’s now looking more likely Westbrook will remain with the Lakers through next season.