NBA Trade Deadline: Russell Westbrook’s Contract Give the Lakers Another Headache Beyond His On-court Struggles

The Los Angeles Lakers continue to stumble through the 2021-22 campaign, hoping to find some consistency. The Lakers’ lack of traction has guided the discussion toward a possible heavy involvement in the trade market. Russell Westbrook may now be pushing Los Angeles toward a more difficult position for a roster move.

Lakers are struggling to find their footing

It’s an understatement that the Lakers have struggled mightily to find any consistent footing.

Injuries and COVID-19 related issues have contributed to Los Angeles splitting the first 44 games. LeBron James’ stellar play in his 19th campaign remains the driving force that has kept them in the playoff picture.

Despite the Lakers grabbing an impressive win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night, the team sits engulfed with trade chatter that may see them pursue two possible backcourt targets.

NBA trade deadline: Russell Westbrook’s contract give the Lakers another headache beyond his on-court struggles

The Lakers’ continued struggles have pushed the conversation toward the trade market to give the franchise a kickstart in the right direction.

However, general manager Rob Pelinka is hamstrung as nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook isn’t drawing any significant interest due to his massive remaining contract. He’s making $44.2 million this season and holds a $47 million player option for the 2022-23 campaign.

All that has left third-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker as the team’s most appealing trade piece. Bleacher Report‘s Eric Pincus recently speculated that it might push the Lakers to target former Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon or Orlando Magic guard Terrance Ross.

“While the Los Angeles Lakers have designs on Simmons, Turner and Grant, the franchise may not have enough to get a deal done. Westbrook’s contract is all but unmovable,’ Pincus wrote. “Talen Horton-Tucker hasn’t taken a step forward in his third season. A more likely market for the Lakers might be Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic or Eric Gordon of the Rockets, provided either team wants to take a flyer on Horton-Tucker as a prospect.”

Over the last several seasons, Gordon has become a highly effective scoring option off the bench. The 33-year-old is putting together an efficient campaign, averaging 14.9 points on 50.5% shooting from the floor and hitting 45.5% from beyond the arc on 5.3 attempts per contest. Gordon is in the second year of his four-year, $75.5 million deal, making roughly $18.2 million this season.

Meanwhile, Ross has been linked to the Lakers throughout the years due to his versatility. The 30-year-old is averaging 12.2 points on 41.1% shooting from the floor and 31.4% from 3-point range. He is in the third year of his four-year, $54 million deal, making $12.5 million for the 2021-22 campaign.

Any trade for either would likely need the Lakers to throw in a few more players, starting with Kendrick Nunn, who has a $5 million salary. The Lakers reportedly are looking to move DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore, who each have the veteran’s minimum salary.

Nonetheless, it adds to the list of options the Lakers may explore.

Lakers will need to move forward with Russell Westbrook

As the trade deadline nears, it’s become clear that the Lakers will need to stick it through with Russell Westbrook.

Westbrook’s inconsistent play combined with his massive remaining contract has essentially made him unmovable. Los Angeles needs him to find comfort and provide reliable scoring alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Lakers brought Westbrook aboard hoping he could be the missing backcourt factor that elevates the franchise toward NBA title contention. He’s struggled to showcase that but still holds enough time to find his rhythm and niche.

Only time will tell if Westbrook can become the x-factor the Lakers need him to be.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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