The Lakers’ Failed Attempt at Acquiring Ben Simmons Proves They’re Fed Up With Russell Westbrook
The Los Angeles Lakers have trekked through a rough start to the 2021-22 campaign, playing well below the lofty expectations. It’s pushed star point guard Russell Westbrook to the forefront as a primary target for criticism. All that led the Lakers down the path to attempt to move him to acquire Ben Simmons, but it came with a swift refusal from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Russell Westbrook experiencing rocky start to Lakers’ stint
The Lakers headlined their busy offseason by acquiring the nine-time All-Star to pair alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Although injuries and COVID-19 related issues have negatively impacted the team, Westbrook’s play hasn’t helped push Los Angeles forward. The Lakers sit in the seventh overall spot at a 17-19 record, having lost six out of their last seven games.
Westbrook’s play has progressively improved has rolled along, averaging 19.7 points, 8.3 assists, and 8.1 rebounds. He’s posted eight triple-double, including in each of the last three contests. However, his long-term status in Los Angeles remains uncertain, but that looks to be at least guaranteed through this season.
The Lakers’ failed attempt at acquiring Ben Simmons proves they’re fed up with Russell Westbrook
The trade chatter around Simmons has picked up steam in recent weeks.
Several teams remain linked to the three-time All-Star, including the Lakers, despite acquiring Westbrook over this past offseason. Los Angeles’ connection to Simmons sits through LeBron James as Klutch Sports agent Rich Paul represents the point guard.
However, during a recent interview on The Anthony Irwin Show, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report stated that the 76ers turned down an offer headlined by Westbrook.
“What I was told is that the Lakers called Philly and they said, ‘We’re interested in Ben,’” Fischer said via Lakers Daily. “It was a short conversation, being that to get there the only salary numbers that could match Ben Simmons’ own expensive salary is AD. (Anthony Davis), or LeBron [James], or Russ’. THT (Talen Horton-Tucker) and Kendrick Nunn and a bunch of minimums aren’t getting there. Like literally, the only way of getting there contractually is to put in Russell Westbrook. And he’s just not a player (the Sixers want).
“The Sixers have a literal, tangible (list). I don’t know how long it is, but somewhere between 20 and 30 players that they would take back for Ben Simmons. They do. And Damian Lillard is on it, James Harden is on it, and Bradley Beal is on it, and Jaylen Brown is on it, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is on it, you can think of the other guys that are on there but not becoming available. … I know that they have these All-Stars that they want, and Russell Westbrook is not one of those guys.”
Talen Horton-Tucker ($9 million) and Kendrick Nunn ($5 million) are the team’s only contracts above the veteran’s minimum outside the All-Star trio. It falls well short of Simmons’ $33 million salary for the 2021-22 campaign. Meanwhile, Westbrook is making $44.2 million, but his value around the league has dropped.
The former league MVP has become a player that teams are shying away from because his playing style isn’t what they believe can push them toward title contention. Beyond that, this latest report effectively pushes the Lakers out of the picture to land Simmons.
LeBron James will shoulder the Lakers until Anthony Davis’ return
The Lakers could pursue other trade routes, but it’s like that won’t see Westbrook garner significant interest.
Horton-Tucker could become a desired trade piece as several teams previously expressed interest, but Los Angeles retained him. Outside of that, the Lakers don’t possess any wiggle room due to how the roster is currently financially constituted.
James will continue to shoulder the team as he’s averaging 27.6 points per contest, which is the highest total for any player in their 19th campaign. The 37-year-old has posted at least 30 points in each of the last six games, but Los Angeles holds a 1-5 record over that stretch.
The Lakers need Westbrook and the rest of the roster to step up to right the ship until Davis returns.
Contract details courtesy of Spotrac.
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