Ever since the Lakers capped off a failure pile of a season, the league has been buzzing with what they'll do with Russell Westbrook this summer. For those holding out hope that the 33-year-old Westbrook somehow won't opt into the his $47M player-option, keep dreaming. He's going to be a major factor in the Lakers offseason plans.
Aging guards on the wrong side of 30 don't just flush $47M down the drain.
Dan Woike of The LA Times caught up with rival executives while attending the NBA Draft Lottery earlier this week. Here's what Woike is hearing from other teams:
"I’ve spoken with more than a handful of executives here in Chicago about the Lakers and Russell Westbrook, and there’s really no clarity in what the team is going to do. Most execs believe any Westbrook deal would require the Lakers sacrificing at least one future first, which is a hefty tax to pay with just a year left on his deal. Some think there might be a deal to be had where the Lakers simply take back long-term deals from other teams in exchange for more immediate cap relief."
Considering the Lakers reluctance to expend what little draft capital they have at the February deadline to jettison Westbrook, it seems like sending picks out to rid themselves of Russ is something the front office would like to avoid.
As Woike mentions, bailing another team out from their long term commitments is another option the Lakers could pursue. A potential trade with either the Charlotte Hornets (centered around Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr.) or an Indiana Pacers deal (headlined by Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield) appears to be more likely at the moment.
That is, if the Lakers decide that they have to trade Westbrook this summer.
However, a recent report suggests that Phil Jackson, who's an influential figure in LA's front office, is advising the Lakers to keep Westbrook and hire a head coach that can produce better results with the Russ-LeBron-AD triumvirate.