The Lakers season isn't over yet. At least not mathematically. The team still has a sliver of hope of getting into the play-in tournament. Still, some Lakers fans have resigned themselves to hoping for a bounce back year next year. Same as last spring.
One burning question that must be answered this summer is what the Lakers front office will do with Russell Westbrook. It's been previously reported that Westbrook has expressed interest in playing elsewhere next season after a tumultuous season in LA complete with constant rankling from disgruntled Lakers fans.
Now, trading Westbrook is challenge considering that he's owed about $47M next year. General manager Rob Pelinka can't just DoorDash a Russ trade to his El Segundo office.
However, more recent developments could open the door to the framework of a potential deal that would get two former All-Stars out of situations they seem to be unhappy with.
The NBA rumor mill has been spitting out reports that former Lakers forward Julius Randle might want out of New York according to a story by the New York Post. The Knicks forward subsequently stated to Ian Begley of SNYtv that the report is "not true bro". Sounds like the words of someone that might want to be traded.
Now, a Westbrook-Randle trade could have some intrigue for both parties. It would allow both franchises to move on from disgruntled stars who have tenuous-at-best relationships with their respective teams' diehard fanbases. Unhappy high profile players sure have a knack for getting traded even when there's significant obstacles in the way.
For the Lakers to get out from underneath Westbrook's massive expiring deal, it would surely have to involve taking on one, if not two, bad Knicks contracts in return. Alec Burks (signed through 2022-2023) and Evan Fournier (2023-2024) certainly come to mind.
In theory, the deal would have some limited appeal for the Lakers in the sense that the team wouldn't have to expend any draft capital to jettison Westbrook. On the flip side, they would be taking on three players with multiple years left on their current contracts.
Randle signed a four-year, $117M extension in August that runs through the 2024-2025 season. The Lakers would have to be comfortable bringing Randle, back to LA for the long-term, and likely the post LeBron era, and for major money.
From an on-court perspective, a Randle-Davis-LeBron might not exactly produce favorable results. Their games, or personalities, might not mesh well, similar to the Lakers current trio of big ticket players.
It's also paramount to note that this week, Bleacher Reports' Jake Fischer reported that the Knicks have "no interest" in a Westbrook trade.
A lot would have to change for the Knicks and Lakers to start thinking about a Randle-Westbrook deal, even if Randle wants out James Harden-style.
In the NBA, things do change quickly.