NBA Trade Rumors: Russell Westbrook May Already Have an Exit Plan If the Lakers Trade Him

The Los Angeles Lakers are playing nowhere near like a championship-contending team. The continued struggles have generated significant doubt around Russell Westbrook‘s long-term future in Los Angeles. If the Lakers move Westbrook before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, the star point guard may have an exit plan in place.

Russell Westbrook’s ongoing shortcomings sprouting major concerns

The Lakers acquired Westbrook hoping the homecoming would see him become the missing piece to the championship puzzle.

Instead, the former league MVP has struggled to find his footing as a reliable offensive factor, especially in late-game situations. Westbrook is averaging all-around numbers with 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 7.8 assists. However, he’s shooting 29.6% from 3-point range and 43.7% from the field, which is tied for his lowest percentage since the 2013-14 campaign.

Westbrook’s struggles have led to trade rumors arising weeks before next month’s deadline. It could spawn a potential exit plan if the Lakers move him.

NBA trade rumors: Russell Westbrook may already have an exit plan if the Lakers trade him

As the Lakers’ ongoing struggles continue, Westbrook’s future remains a lingering discussion around the franchise.

However, Los Angeles isn’t drawing any significant interest for the nine-time All-Star 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.

Despite the financial hurdles, the Houston Rockets are reportedly interested in a trade for Westbrook that would involve a one-for-one swap for John Wall. The Rockets strongly desire the Lakers to include their 2027 first-round pick. 

Interestingly enough, another wrinkle has emerged as the New York Times‘ Marc Stein stated that Houston would engage in a buyout with the former league MVP.

“Buyout discussions with a player owed more than $50 million are never easy, but it is believed Houston would happily cope with that challenge if it could get the future first-rounder from the Lakers,” Stein wrote.

The Rockets are already dealing with the same issue with Wall holding a $47.4 million player option for next season. It will come down to the Lakers’ willingness to include a future first-round pick then take on a slightly more expensive remaining contract. Wall will likely pick up the final year of his contract.

Meanwhile, Westbrook would be free to play elsewhere this season. He would draw considerable interest, as another franchise could potentially ink him for the veteran’s minimum for the rest of the campaign.

Los Angeles holds a significant interest in moving off Westbrook as the experiment hasn’t worked out as hoped. The question becomes whether the Lakers believe Wall can fill the void that the 33-year-old couldn’t. If so, things will ramp up before next month’s trade deadline.

Lakers will have to stick with Russell Westbrook

Although the Lakers are in win-now mode with LeBron James, a trade with the Rockets would keep them salary-cap strung through the 2022-23 season.

Wall remains a highly-talented player, but his remaining contract situation isn’t appealing. Regardless of what unfolds, the Lakers would have no wiggle room to build a more diverse roster around James and Anthony Davis.

General manager Rob Pelinka would need several players to take pay cuts at the veteran’s minimum like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, and Trevor Ariza did. The allure of playing with James will draw talent, but it’s hard to build a formidable roster without the proper financial spending capabilities.

If the Lakers want to move Westbrook desperately, the Rockets are willing to do so under specific parameters. If not, expect the star point guard to remain in Los Angeles at least through this season.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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