NBA Trade Deadline: Knicks Could Take Russell Westbrook’s $44.2 Contract Off the Lakers’ Hands

The Los Angeles Lakers are freefalling south, dropping eight out of their last 11 games. The downward spiral has brought more trade chatter around star point guard Russell Westbrook before next month’s deadline. Former NBA front office executive Bobby Marks has proposed a potential move that would send Westbrook to the New York Knicks.

Russell Westbrook is struggling to find his way in a Lakers uniform

The Lakers acquired Westbrook hoping he could become the missing piece that pushes the franchise toward playing like an NBA title contender.

The experience through the first 51 games has been anything but that as Los Angeles holds a 24-27 record, sitting in the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings. Injuries have played a significant factor, as James and Davis missed playing time. All that has led the Lakers’ big three to play only 17 games together.

Meanwhile, Westbrook has struggled to adjust to his reduced role despite averaging all-around numbers with 18.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists. He’s dealing with ongoing issues concerning late-game decision-making and his outside shot, hitting 30.9% from 3-point range.

It’s led to his name becoming prominent in trade chatter, with a possible scenario mentioned by a former NBA front-office executive.

NBA trade deadline: Knicks could take Russell Westbrook’s $44.2 contract off the Lakers’ hands

Westbrook’s future before the Feb. 10 trade deadline remains a prevalent discussion.

There hasn’t been much league interest in the nine-time All-Star due to his massive remaining contract, but a potential suitor could emerge. During a recent appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe, ESPN’s Bobby Marks voiced that he believes the New York Knicks could offer a deal that sends Westbrook to Madison Square Garden.

“I’d call the Lakers for Russell Westbrook…I’m offering Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, and Fournier for Russell Westbrook and a 2027 lottery-protected first from the Lakers. That’s the trade I’m offering,” Marks, who served as the Brooklyn Nets assistant general manager for five years, said via SI.com.

Last offseason, the Lakers were briefly rumored to hold interest in Walker while he was still with the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, the latest reports suggest that the Knicks are open to moving the star point guard and Evan Fournier.

Walker’s homecoming hasn’t unfolded as hoped due to health issues that have led to a fluctuating role. In 29 games, he’s averaging 12.9 points, the lowest since his rookie year, while shooting 41.3% from the floor and 37.9% from 3-point range in 26.7 minutes per contest.

Walker’s playing time hasn’t been consistent, but he scored 44 points against the Washington Wizards on Dec. 23. When given the opportunity, he’s showcased his scoring prowess remains. He is in the first year of a $17.8 million deal making $8.7 million.

Fournier is playing in the first year of his four-year, $73 million contract, getting paid $17.1 million. Burks is in the first season of his three-year, $30 million deal making $9.5 million. Fournier and Burks would add much-needed outside shooting, both hitting 39% from 3-point range this season. New York needs of a jolt, sitting at a 23-27 record, and the star point guard could provide that.

However, that proposed deal wouldn’t work financially because the Knicks need to match Westbrook’s incoming $44.2 million salary. If the Knicks are willing to take on the former league MVP’s remaining contract, it wouldn’t be farfetched to see both teams make it work by adding a couple more pieces such as Nerlens Noel’s $8.8 million salary to deal.

Los Angeles will likely have to ride it out with Russell Westbrook

As much as the Lakers desire to move off Westbrook, the team will likely ride with the star point guard for the rest of the season.

No team outside the Houston Rockets has expressed any significant interest in acquiring the 33-year-old. Even in that scenario, Los Angeles is unwilling to part ways with another first-round pick due to the optics being that they had to move another asset to get rid of Westbrook.

All that paints the picture of him getting the opportunity to prove he can help the Lakers turn it around. Ultimately, time will tell if that can come to fruition in Los Angeles.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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