Here are the LA Lakers' 6 best options to move Russell Westbrook

Here are the LA Lakers’ 6 best options to move Russell Westbrook

Here are the LA Lakers’ 6 best options to move Russell Westbrook

0 out of 6

    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 23: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on October 23, 2022 at Crypto.Com Arena in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Lakers have started the season…slowly. They had hoped new head coach Darvin Ham and a healthier, younger roster would lead to a better performance than last year’s 33 wins. But the results are worrying. The team is winless in three games, poorly assembled and historically bad from three points (21.2%).

    Early failures aren’t entirely about Russell Westbrook, but he stands out as the obvious problem given his hefty $47.1 million price tag and how poorly he fits in alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers have been trying to walk away from his deal since before last season’s trade deadline.

    With overly expensive offseason deals, the pre-season hope was to assess progress in the first 20 games. But the losses are already piling up. Several league executives expect Los Angeles to eventually give up their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to move Westbrook.

    Is there a “Lakers tax”? Some executives think it’s real, less because of historic rivalries, but because of the pressure to field a contender around James and LA’s recent history of dodgy deals.

    Will the Lakers rush into a panic trade? What kind of return would they be looking at for a deal in early to mid-November?

Buddy Hield and Myles Turner for two premieres

1 of 6

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – OCTOBER 24: Buddy Hield #24 of the Indiana Pacers reacts during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on October 24, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

    The Lakers and Indiana Pacers (1-3) have been in competition for months. Pacers Governor Herb Simon has long resisted tanking, but the team isn’t very good. Would he be more open to accepting this path for the first two Lakers?

    Indiana is believed to be interested in a deal. The Lakers would receive Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, potentially with Daniel Theis and/or TJ McConnell. LA didn’t get much out of Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant (out with a thumb injury). Turner would help the Lakers defensively and allow Davis to play more power.

    Considering his questionable durability, Turner’s value may not be as high as a single first. Many see Hield as a more negative asset given his over $39.1 million production this season and next. Still, he would help address the Lakers’ biggest weakness as a high-volume three-point shooter.

Several San Antonio players (Jakob Poeltl or a commercial exception?)

2 out of 6

    SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 19: Jakob Poeltl #25 of the San Antonio Spurs scores past Charlotte Hornets defenders in the second half at the AT&T Center on October 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

    Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

    The San Antonio Spurs have enough salary cap space to make a lopsided trade. The Lakers and Spurs have communicated for several months about the possibility of working together on a Westbrook trade, but nothing has apparently come close to fruition.

    The Lakers would assume Josh Richardson’s expiring $12.2 million contract, as well as the $27.5 million owed to Doug McDermott through 2023-24. LA might be able to do this for a single first, but its low-leverage position may prevent reasonable protections.

    If Los Angeles is more generous with its draft currency, perhaps that could lead to Jakob Poeltl filling his need at center. Without him, the Lakers would receive a $21.1 million trade exception, large enough to acquire Turner in a separate deal. LA would still benefit from an $11.7 million trade exception with Poeltl.

Utah’s Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley

3 out of 6

    NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 23: Jordan Clarkson #00 of the Utah Jazz heads for the basket during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 23, 2022 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Utah Jazz are among the best teams in the NBA in terms of records, but few expect it to last. After dealing with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the offseason, the Jazz are supposed to be tanked. If they continue to win, drop them last on this list.

    But if Utah decides to focus on development, it could offer the Lakers Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley. The Lakers would likely be interested in Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt or Kelly Olynyk, but Utah is more likely to offer aging veterans Mike Conley and Rudy Gay.

    If the Lakers can deepen the Jazz for just one first, that might be a viable path. Unless some of Utah’s younger players are available, the potential haul shouldn’t be worth several first-round players.

Rozier and Hayward of Charlotte

4 out of 6

    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 30: Terry Rozier #3 and Gordon Hayward #20 of the Charlotte Hornets celebrate against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Capital One Arena on March 30, 2021 in Washington, DC.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Would Charlotte Hornets President Michael Jordan Favor Westbrook as a Jordan Brand Athlete? The Pacers and Spurs would likely try to buy Westbrook out if they traded with the Lakers, but the Hornets could be a rare team that could consider Westbrook’s value as a player.

    Maybe it’s a Lakers dream. Closer to reality, the Hornets don’t tank. Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward are their best performers. Others like Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee could also help the Lakers, but the Hornets are unlikely to rush into a move that decimates their roster.

    If Charlotte embraces the pursuit of Victor Wembanyama, it might displace Hayward, whose contract may not sit well with the Lakers. But he would be a clear talent upgrade, with Rozier. But that opportunity may only develop closer to the trade deadline and could cost the Lakers the first two rounds.

Kyrie Irving (sooner or later)

5 out of 6

    MEMPHIS, TN – OCTOBER 24: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on October 24, 2022 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

    The Lakers were interested in acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets and would do so if he became available again. So far, the Nets (1-2) have weathered the offseason turmoil of trade demand for Kevin Durant. But LA certainly has an eye or two on this situation.

    If the franchises want to help each other out in disappointing situations, maybe there’s a deal to be made. But that might not be likely until the deadline approaches. Irving will definitely be at the top of the Lakers free agent wish list if a trade isn’t in the cards.

    The Lakers may have $31 million to $35 million in cap space, but that won’t be enough to maximize Irving next season. That might be enough, though, if Irving’s market is weak given his mercurial personality. Irving’s possibility may cause LA to reject some of the proposals listed above, unless they relate to expiring contracts. That would mean no Hayward, Rozier or Hield if the Lakers identify Irving in free agency as the priority.

    Whether it does or not is another story. But that’s the theme of all these potential targets. The Lakers are likely choosing from a list of questionable options.

Would it be better to wait?

6 out of 6

    DALLAS, TEXAS – MAY 12: Jae Crowder #99 of the Phoenix Suns shoots the ball against Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks in the first quarter of Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals at American Airlines Center on May 12 May 2022 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, user accepts the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

    The Lakers can find a deal that improves their roster from bad to mediocre or even good. But how many realistic occupations would make them awesome? Would any move that doesn’t get the Lakers to the top flight be worth it?

    On the other hand, any team with James and Davis shouldn’t be that far off, except for this team and last year’s team. The Lakers may be in a bad spot in October and November, but rushing to get a deal done can lead to longer-term issues. What would be the point if they sacrificed two first-round picks and didn’t become a significant force in the Western Conference?

    If the Lakers can hold out through December and January, the opportunities could increase as recently signed free agents become eligible for trades. Waiting may be best, although the season could be almost over if the Lakers fall too far from contention.

    Also, if the Lakers make a two-, three-, or four-for-one trade, others on the roster beyond Westbrook should go. The only players eligible to trade on regular contracts are Davis, Patrick Beverley, Austin Reaves, Wenyen Gabriel, Max Christie and Kendrick Nunn. Others may be cut outright to make room on the roster, like Matt Ryan, whose salary is not guaranteed.

    Finally, in all trades, the Lakers may want to try and get the Phoenix Suns on a multi-team trade to add Jae Crowder, who is missing from the team, in hopes of a trade.


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