Could the Lakers Trade Russell Westbrook?
After a busy offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to play like a championship-contending team. Meanwhile, star point guard Russell Westbrook has caught plenty of flak for his persistent shortcomings. It’s led the dialogue toward a shaky future ahead for Westbrook, prompting questions about whether he may have a new NBA home before the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
Russell Westbrook is struggling to find his footing with the Lakers
Westbrook’s first few months in a Lakers’ uniform haven’t unfolded well.
The nine-time All-Star has struggled to find consistency playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis (when healthy). Injuries and COVID-19 related issues have played a considerable factor, but Westbrook isn’t providing the supporting impact that Los Angeles envisioned.
He’s putting up his typical all-around numbers, averaging 19.0 points, 8.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds, but he’s struggled with turnovers (4.5) and 3-point shooting (29.8%). His inconsistent scoring has become more noticeable with Anthony Davis sidelined. That was certainly the case in Sunday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, as he scored only six points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field.
As the trade deadline draws closer, his status with the Lakers beyond that point is becoming a more prominent question.
Could the Lakers trade Russell Westbrook?
Westbrook’s persistent shortcomings have shed greater light on his long-term future with Los Angeles.
The nine-time All-Star’s inability to find cohesion playing alongside LeBron James has sunk his stock around the league. The Athletic‘s Sam Amick recently reported that the Lakers are having difficulty finding any serious suitor due to his massive remaining contract.
“A deal appears extremely unlikely before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, if only because his deal that was once seen by so many as untradeable is such a massive obstacle,” Amick wrote. “But inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn’t gone as (James and Davis had) planned.”
Westbrook is in the fourth year of his $206.7 million deal that pays him $44.2 million and holds a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season. It’s more than likely that he will pick up the contract option as it may become hard for him to find another franchise willing to pay him that salary.
The Lakers previously reached out to the Philadelphia 76ers to inquire about Ben Simmons. However, they were immediately told that Westbrook wouldn’t be a desired trade package asset despite being an All-Star caliber player. As much as the Lakers want to dangle the former league MVP in the trade market, the team will have to hang onto him at least through the rest of the 2021-22 season.
LeBron James will anchor the Lakers’ push forward
Although any inclusion of Westbrook in trade packages may be off the table, the Lakers will stay active looking for roster moves.
Los Angeles remains heavily linked to Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant, who is in the second year of his three-year, $60 million deal. The franchise’s interest in Grant dates back to his promising play in the 2020 Orlando bubble situation.
Beyond those roster tweaks, the Lakers will have right the ship until Anthony Davis returns from the MCL sprain in his left knee. LeBron James is leading the offensive charge behind his impressive production in his 19th campaign. James is second in the league behind Kevin Durant, with 28.9 points per game on 52.8% shooting from the floor.
The Lakers need Westbrook and the rest of the supporting cast to provide stable production if they hope to make headway. Los Angeles still has plenty of time on their side, but the clock is ticking.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.
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