Despite the discouraging start to the 2021-22 campaign, the Los Angeles Lakers are eyeing a strong turnaround toward NBA title contention. It’s led the Lakers to gauge in significant activity before next month’s trade deadline. However, the Lakers may have to face a disappointing truth about their roster movement aspirations.
Lakers are struggling to move toward NBA title contention
There is simply no way around it: The Lakers have played well below the expectations.
Aside from LeBron James continuing to vigorously fend off Father Time with his stellar play, Los Angeles looks no bit the part of an NBA title contender. Instead, they are floundering in the backend of the Western Conference playoff picture.
The franchise’s shortcomings have led to increased chatter regarding its involvement in the trade market. However, the Lakers may hold a stark discouraging reality ahead.
Lakers are stuck facing a stark reality about the NBA trade deadline
As the Lakers tumble, it’s put a central focus on potential roster movement to improve the team.
In recent weeks, Los Angeles has reportedly engaged in many discussions to feel out the trade market for possible deals. However, during Tuesday’s episode of ESPN’s NBA Today, longtime league insider Adrian Wojnarowski voiced much skepticism that the Lakers will be able to make a notable move before next month’s trade deadline.
“I think, for the most part, the Lakers’ improvement is going to have to come from within,” Wojnarowski said. “They just don’t have tradeable assets, especially with so few sellers in the market. There are going to be other teams who can offer those select few sellers better options than the Lakers will be able to.”
The construction of the Lakers’ roster is a huge hurdle as outside their three star players, Talen Horton-Tucker appears to be the only moveable piece with his $9 million salary. Kendrick Nunn possesses a $5 million salary, while the rest of the team is under veteran minimum deals.
Los Angeles reportedly wants to offload DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore, but there is a lack of significant interest. Horton-Tucker is an intriguing prospect, but his struggles with consistency in his third campaign have hurt his stock.
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook has essentially become an unmovable piece as his offensive shortcomings combined with his massive remaining contract have led to a lack of significant interest. Westbrook is making $44.2 million this season and holds a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 campaign.
Unless things drastically change, the Lakers are headed toward a quiet trade deadline.
Los Angeles will have to ride it out with Russell Westbrook
Over the last few weeks, it has become abundantly clear that the Lakers will have to ride it out with Russell Westbrook.
Los Angeles will likely have no choice but to see the experiment through at least the rest of the 2021-22 season. The nine-time All-Star has struggled to find his footing, but the Lakers still have 38 regular-season games to figure out their identity. It’s especially the case with Anthony Davis set to return in the next couple of weeks.
Westbrook has shown the trend of performing better in the second half of the season, as his number improved following the All-Star break. Last season, he averaged a triple-double with 23.6 points, 13.1 assists, and 12.6 rebounds on 44.7% shooting.
The potential production is appealing, but the Lakers are hoping he can finally fit into his role as a reliable third-scoring option that can excel in late-game moments. Time will only tell, but Westbrook has an opportunity ahead to push Los Angeles toward NBA title contention.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.