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The future of Russell Westbrook on the Lakers has been a constant topic of conversation this offseason. Westbrook trade rumors, along with the Lakers head coaching search, have dominated the headlines in Los Angeles. While many presumed that LA could, and should, trade Russ, there's growing belief that the Lakers reluctance to include future first-round picks in a potential trade will result in the guard starting the season on LA's roster.

Earlier this week, The LA Times' Dan Woike reported that rival executives don't have a handle on what the Lakers plans are when it comes to Westbrook. 

According to recent reports that adviser Phil Jackson is pushing for the team to keep the nine-time All-Star and that head coaching candidates are being asked how they would utilize Westbrook during interviews.

 Even with all that in mind, Substack's Marc Stein still thinks the team could explore waiving Russ or negotiate a buyout with him.

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"I, for one, still struggle to imagine a scenario where Westbrook starts next season as a Laker — even if that means releasing him or trying to hash out some sort of buyout."

Stein framed his opinion by revisiting the notion that LA doesn't want to expend draft capital in a potential Westbrook trade.  

"They would naturally prefer to avoid trades that require them to inject a future first-round pick to push the deal through, but they also know that the fresh-start atmosphere they hope to create when training camp begins in September will be extremely difficult to foster if Westbrook is still on the roster."

Westbrook still needs to officially pick up his $47M player-option, but it seems like a forgone conclusion that he'll opt in considering that a lucrative, multi-year deal probably isn't coming Russ's way if he elects to become a free agent.

Stein is a veteran reporter with great sources, but the Laker simply eating $47M just to get him off the roster seems highly unlikely. Of the two options, negotiating a buyout seems much more probable.