Following their title run in the 2020 NBA Bubble, the Los Angeles Lakers lost in the first-round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs and then this past year, they missed the playoffs entirely.
While injuries have played a massive role in this team’s demise over the last few seasons, a vast majority of the Lakers roster has underperformed, especially during the 2021-22 season.
Trading for Russell Westbrook ahead of last season, giving up the likes of Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the process, the Lakers believed that the “walking triple-double” could form an unstoppable trio alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Well, that was not necessarily the case last year, as every single team in the league seemed capable of stopping this trio in Los Angeles!
Russell Westbrook averaged under 20 points per game for the season for the first-time in over a decade and his fit alongside James and Davis is definitely in question right now.
This offseason, the Lakers have explored the possibility of moving Westbrook in a trade, yet they have not come close to any deal and they are unwilling to view him as a “dead asset” given that he is on a $47 million expiring contract.
Between Westbrook, James and Davis, the Lakers are committed to close to $130 million in total payroll, about 70.6% of their total payroll for the 2022-23 season.
Moving the All-Star point guard and getting the secondary talent back that they lost when they made a move for Westbrook is an option on the table for the Lakers, but GM Rob Pelinka and the team’s front-office are unwilling to attach added assets, specifically draft picks, in a deal involving Russell Westbrook.
According to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers have been unwilling to add extra draft compensation in trade talks involving Westbrook this offseason, stating “So far, that’s a road the Lakers haven’t seriously taken, Rob Pelinka surprising plenty of folks around the NBA with his hesitancy to attach multiple draft picks with Westbrook in trade talks.”
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been a trade target for the Lakers this offseason, yet Brooklyn has made it clear that they do not want any part of Russell Westbrook’s contract.
Los Angeles has also explored the possibility of pursuing players like Myles Turner and Buddy Hield on the Indiana Pacers, yet Indiana has asked for more added draft compensation from the Lakers in order to give up both Turner and Hield, something the Lakers have not been willing to negotiate.
Keeping Westbrook for the 2022-23 season seems like the most likely scenario for the Lakers right now simply because there is no market for him.
Almost no team in the league needs a point guard at this stage of the offseason given that they addressed their needs in the draft and free agency. Not to mention, Westbrook’s $47 million contract for the 2022-23 season would force whatever team that trades for him to give up a solid amount or depth or a star-like player also on a max contract, something none of the other 29 teams in the league have expressed interest in doing.
According to Woike, other stars around the league like Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell possibly getting dealt before the start of the new season could make a Russell Westbrook trade “a little wider.”
The Los Angeles Lakers are definitely still interested in evaluating all of their options ahead of the start of the 2022-23 season, putting Westbrook on the clock in terms of how long his Lakers future will last.