The biggest and most obvious obstacle Lakers What will be clear to them in the coming offseason is to find out what the future holds for Russell Westbrook. While the preference seems to be, considering how disastrous this season was, that he never play in Los Angeles again, shedding a $47 million-plus contract next year won’t be an easy task, to say the least.
But it is not as impossible a scenario as it seems. While the Lakers have backed themselves into a corner when it comes to moving Westbrook, he’s still a corner with some options to get out, even if he’ll require some flexibility and pain to do so. Over the past week alone, multiple reports have surfaced about possible suitors for Westbrook, showing some of the options the Lakers may have.
With that in mind, here’s a look at three potential suitors and trades the Lakers could make to part ways with Westbrook.
One of the first teams to emerge as possible suitors for Westbrook, the ties between owner Michael Jordan and Westbrook, who has an exclusive shoe with Jordan Brand, are obvious. But there is other reasons the Hornets might be intrigued make a deal with Los Angeles.
Led by LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges, the Hornets have built an exciting young core moving forward. But that young core will have to be paid for soon, starting with Bridges this summer and Ball soon after. The problem, then, is Gordon Hayward’s big contract already on the payroll.
Unsurprisingly, Hayward’s massive four-year, $120 million contract signed in 2020 he didn’t age well, especially since he’s dealt with injuries each of the past two years. Charlotte may very well be looking to get out of that deal in exchange for Westbrook expiring, which would allow them more flexibility to pay Ball in the future. When he’s healthy, Hayward is still a productive player, but he’s played only 44 and 49 games the past two seasons and isn’t the insurance against injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis that the team was looking for in adding Westbrook.
A Hayward-for-Westbrook trade wouldn’t work out financially, as the Hornets would need to part with about $8 million more in salary. Aside from including Kelly Oubre, unlikely given her age and productivity this year, or a signing and trade with Montrezl Harrell, unlikely given how things turned out last time in LA with him, the other potential option could be going after PJ Washington.
A forward with some versatility who has struggled to find a consistent role in Charlotte, Washington still has the range and defensive ability that would make him intriguing to pair with Anthony Davis. With Bridges and Ball moving up the ladder and poised for big paydays, PJ Washington, who hasn’t been able to establish himself the same way Bridges has, could be the odd one out.
Washington is in the final year of his rookie deal and would be up for a bigger deal in the summer of 2023. The Hornets could get by if they trade him this upcoming offseason, potentially as part of a deal to help get rid of Hayward. . contract too. I would put the honor on the Lakers to make a decision on whether to pay Washington, or trade him, next season.
To complete the deal financially, the Hornets would have to add one more player on a smaller deal, while the Lakers would likely have to add some kind of draft pick compensation, considering the talent coming back to them in the deal. But this could be a way for the Lakers to get the talent back, with caveats, while getting rid of Westbrook.
While much of the talk about Westbrook going to the Pacers has been more speculative, there is a framework of an agreement that could work for both parties. Unlike the Hornets, the Pacers are collapsing and therefore make sense as suitors for Westbrook.
They also have some big contracts that it would make sense to trade for, one of them being hilariously our old friend Buddy Hield. Malcolm Brogdon is another player with a big contract that the The Lakers have previously had an interest in during past low seasons.
Like the Hornets deal, the Pacers would turn a pair of long-term deals into a big hit under the short-term salary cap. However, that doesn’t seem like enough help, and the Lakers would probably have to add an asset to the Pacers to sweeten the deal. Ultimately, teams know the Lakers have backed into a corner and will squeeze them for every possible asset.
Adding Talen Horton-Tucker to the trade would still work out financially. Adding some of limited team selections, with or without Horton-Tucker, could also work. Packing up Westbrook and Tucker for Hield and Brogdon also saves the Lakers $13.5 million in the short term.
The catch in this deal is twofold. For one thing, Brogdon has a lot of injury problems and has played just 150 of a possible 231 games in the last three years. And yet, Brogdon is signed through the 2024-25 season while Hield is signed through the 2023-24 season. This deal would severely limit the Lakers’ future spending, but would give them two productive players, when healthy, on the roster. Perhaps that’s a more preferred risk than going after Hayward for the Lakers, but it presents a similar kind of downside if it goes wrong.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are always up for something wild, and trading for Westbrook could be that move. For one thing, they have the contracts to match it. For two, unlike Indiana or Charlotte, who would almost certainly buy Westbrook’s contract, the Knicks might be crazy enough to play him.
Setting up the trade is relatively simple. Pick a combination of Julius Randle ($26.1 million payer in 2022-23), Evan Fournier ($18 million), Derrick Rose ($14.5 million) and Alec Burks ($10 million) that puts you in the ballpark of Westbrook’s $47 million and it’s pretty much set.
the Lakers I’ve been after Rose for a long time., and could see his addition as a positive, even though he’s a 33-year-old point guard who can’t shoot. Randle’s acquisition would only come after some awkward apologies and/or “forgive and forget” acknowledgments. considering how things turned out in his first term in Los Angeles too (do you notice a trend here?). Fournier and Burks would be wings the team was sorely lacking this season, though the former would come on a much longer contract than the latter.
In reality, this would just be an instance of two teams exchanging problems. The Lakers and the Knicks had conversations of some kind during the trade deadline, though they almost certainly didn’t include Westbrook or probably a lot of the players who would need to be included in this deal to make it work financially. But there is a relationship established there.
For the Lakers, it’s shuffling the deck, turning one really bad contract into multiple bad contracts in the hope that a change of scenery will lead to more production from acquired players or smaller contracts will be easier to move. For the Knicks, the motivations are similar: trade players who didn’t work out for one who’s only under a one-year deal and allow another restart next summer while maybe putting some butts in the seats in the interim.
Neither of these trades is ideal, obviously, because there is no ideal Lakers trade for Westbrook that another NBA team would accept. Somehow, the Lakers will take a hit if they want to get rid of Westbrook, it’s just a matter of assessing which hit hurts the least and can help the team win more in the last year they have James. and Davis together.