After falling disappointingly short of competing for a second straight NBA title, the Los Angeles Lakers head into a critical offseason. The front office has several different routes to revamp the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With that in mind, the Lakers‘ two stars may have just dropped a hint that they want Russell Westbrook to join them.
Russell Westbrook wraps up his first season with the Wizards
The Washington Wizards shook up the franchise last offseason after acquiring Westbrook in exchange for John Wall.
The star guard struggled through injuries to begin the 2020-21 campaign but quickly found his groove alongside fellow star Bradley Beal. He finished the regular season averaging a triple-double with 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds.
Westbrook led the league with 38 triple-doubles while being the second player in NBA history to average at least 11 rebounds and 11 assists per game in a season. His 14 triple-doubles in April are an NBA record for a single month. He also posted the third game in league history with at least 20 rebounds and 20 assists.
Beyond that, his play helped guide the Wizards to the play-in tournament and snagged the eighth playoff spot. As he heads into the offseason, Westbrook may have stars from another team, showing they want him to join them.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis unintentionally spark Lakers trade rumors regarding Russell Westbrook
Since the Lakers’ first-round playoff exit, it’s no secret that the franchise is eyeing some considerable roster changes this upcoming summer.
A big part of that equation will be contributions from James and Davis regarding who they believe the team should acquire. The two stars may have subtly indicated that Westbrook is the next superstar the Lakers need to pursue.
It quickly became evident on social media that the Lakers stars each recently began following Westbrook’s wife, Nina.
Although it’s quick to hedge toward that route, it’s not farfetched. There is a strong level of mutual respect toward the all-time career triple-doubles leader.
The question now becomes whether the Lakers have an intriguing trade package to offer along with offloading enough cap space to take on Westbrook’s $44.2 million salary for the 2021-22 campaign. His contract runs through the 2022-23 season, where he holds a $47 million player option in the final year of his five-year, $206.7 million deal.
The Lakers could move Dennis Schroder in a sign-and-trade, but he would first need to agree to it. Meanwhile, the only other significant contract the team has to offer is Kyle Kuzma’s $13 million salary he’s scheduled to make in the first year of his three-year, $39 million contract.
It’s an intriguing scenario, but there are many hurdles the team must move past first. Another prominent question is whether the pairing of the three stars would work well together. Westbrook is a player that thrives primarily with the ball in his hands and isn’t a reliable 3-point shooter (30.5% for his career).
He is a phenomenal talent, but he may not be the third star the Lakers need to pair alongside James and Davis to compete for another title.
Lakers will have plenty of offseason options
The Lakers can certainly explore acquiring Westbrook, but that is one of several offseason options.
The front office is expected to make significant changes to the backcourt after Dennis Schroder struggled to find his footing. Schroder voiced an interest to return, but his inconsistent play and desire for a highly lucrative deal may push him out of the Lakers’ plans.
Meanwhile, the team may desire to pursue a sign-and-trade for All-Star guard Kyle Lowry. Other options such as Spencer Dinwiddie could be on the table in free agency.
Ultimately, there are several routes the front office can head to revamp the backcourt.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.