The Los Angeles Lakers saw their disappointing season result in the crushing outcome of missing the playoffs. The attention quickly shifts to the Lakers’ upcoming offseason plans, which will become largely centered around Russell Westbrook‘s fate.
Westbrook’s failure to fit into the mix has placed an uncertain future ahead. Despite that, the star point guard remains hopeful to run it back, but that is an irrational belief.
Russell Westbrook hopes to return to the Lakers
The Lakers’ elimination from playoff contention pushes their future plans to the forefront.
The nine-time All-Star is expected to be among the significant roster changes to build a championship contender around LeBron James. After Tuesday’s loss, Westbrook voiced that he is hopeful that he gets the chance to run it back in Los Angeles next to James and Anthony Davis.
“That’s the plan,” Westbrook said via CBS Sports. “But nothing is promised. You kind of have to take it one day at a time each day. Like I’ve said all season long, you’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt. Yes, we want to be able to see what that looks like, what that entails over the course of an 82-game season, but we’re not sure if that’s guaranteed, either. So I just hope that we have a chance to be able to do something.”
Injuries certainly played a part in preventing the Lakers’ star trio from building cohesion, but Westbrook’s inability to transition into a lesser role became evident. The 33-year-old didn’t fit the mold as the third scoring option because of his shooting struggles.
Instead, the Lakers’ shortcomings influenced him to stay in his playing style, which the Lakers didn’t need. Beyond that, Westbrook’s remarks indicate that he will pick up his $47 million player option for next season, meaning Los Angeles will have the challenging task of moving him.
The former league MVP could get his wish if the Lakers cannot move him, but that isn’t the game plan. A roster reset is in order, and he will be among the changes.
Russell Westbrook is foolish to believe the Lakers will keep him
As much as Russell Westbrook wants to run it back for another campaign, that card doesn’t look to be in the books.
He may have only played 21 games alongside James and Davis, but the totality of the season was enough to prove that he doesn’t fit. Beyond that, his contract will become the reason the team moves him. His $47 million salary significantly limits the Lakers’ ability to build a formidable roster around their star talent.
General manager Rob Pelinka had to rely on veteran players taking pay cuts at the veteran’s minimum salary. Los Angeles gathered several proven players, but the group didn’t formulate a cohesive unit that excelled on either end of the floor.
Westbrook holds every reason to want to come back and prove the doubters wrong, but the Lakers are operating on James’ timetable. The 18-time All-Star is under contract just through next year, and he clearly has plenty of high-level basketball ahead. On top of that, the organization wants to construct a roster that will convince James this upcoming summer to extend his deal beyond the 2022-23 campaign.
The Lakers want to revamp the team around James and Davis, and it’s wishful thinking from the star point guard to believe he’s part of the long-term plans.
Lakers will experience challenges trading the star point guard
Although it’s extremely early to determine possible trade scenarios, the Lakers will have options.
Many will likely feature draft assets to intrigue teams enough to take on Westbrook’s massive remaining salary. The 33-year-old’s value took a significant hit, but he can excel at a high level in the right situation.
Los Angeles could attempt to explore the John Wall trade possibility again, but the team would need to be comfortable with moving a first-round selection. Meanwhile, another franchise could emerge looking for a star talent to lead the charge.
Much could change in the coming months, but the Lakers will need to cough up first-round draft picks. In other words, Los Angeles needs to swallow their ego if it wants to move off Westbrook
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.