The Los Angeles Lakers are looking for a Russell Westbrook trade, but his $47.1 million salary combined with an inefficient performance last season make that unlikely (unless the Lakers want to throw in a first-round pick or good young player as a sweetener — and they do not).
All that has increased the buzz around the league that Westbrook could be back with the Lakers next season. Candidates for the Lakers’ head coaching job were asked how they would meld Westbrook into the offense with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers could waive and stretch Westbrook’s contract and eat the salary, or set up something like the Rockets did with John Wall last season and just pay him to stay away. However, the Lakers don’t want to do that, something Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic wrote, echoing other reports.
As for the prospect of Westbrook being waived or sent home (a la Houston’s John Wall last season) if he is not traded, those are not considered viable options, and all indications are that he will play. With that in mind, the Lakers are focused on hiring a coach who is capable of navigating these types of sensitive situations.
After the struggles with Westbrook fitting in with the Lakers last season, bringing him back has the potential for disaster — and it’s a big ask of the new coach to make it work. It would be about getting Westbrook to accept a role he does not want, and appeasing him with some of what he does.
All this speaks to the Lakers’ limited options to improve a roster that did not even make the play-in games. Sources told NBC Sports the Lakers are still looking for trades centered around Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, plus their 2027 and/or 2029 first-round picks (although the Lakers don’t want to surrender those picks if possible). There wasn’t much of a market for them at the trade deadline, but a team with a strong player-development program may have interest in the potential of Horton-Tucker. The question is, what would the Lakers get back of value in such a deal?
This all may be posturing by the Lakers to gain some leverage in trade negotiations, but the buzz is growing that the Lakers may run it back with Westbrook.