The Lakers’ situation is pretty clear: They would like to trade Russell Westbrook before the season starts (ideally before training camp). However, other teams want sweeteners to take him (and his $47 million contract), and because of their very limited trade assets, the Lakers don’t want to put all their eggs in a basket that doesn’t make them title contenders. Put simply, the Lakers don’t want to trade the last two first-round picks under their control this decade (2027 and 2029) just to be a good playoff team — they will do it for a shot at a ring.
This brings us to this report from Marc Stein in his Sunday newsletter, saying the Lakers could well be the third team in a Donovan Mitchell trade with the Knicks, sending out a pick or picks to unload Westbrook and get back quality role players.
If the Knicks manage to win the trade race for Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, or even if another team unexpectedly beats them to Mitchell, league sources say there’s a decent chance that the Lakers will be involved in the deal. The two future first-round picks that the Lakers possess in 2027 and 2029 are the kind of top-shelf draft picks that Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is believed to covet. Russell Westbrook’s $47 million expiring contract and those picks could be the Lakers’ entree to a potential three-team swap … depending on the players that would land in Los Angeles.
The Lakers, I’m told, continue to hold firm on their position that they will agree to surrender both of their future firsts in the same deal only if the trade makes them a certified contender. Does a three-teamer that routes, say, Utah’s Bojan Bogdanović and New York’s Evan Fournier to the Lakers rise to that level?
The Lakers would almost unquestionably put one of their first-round picks (likely unprotected) in a trade that sent out Westbrook and returned two or three of Bogdanovic, Fournier, Malik Beasley, and Jordan Clarkson. A Laker starting five with Patrick Beverley, Fournier, Bogdanovic, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, with a bench of Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves, Kendrick Nunn and Thomas Bryant is good (maybe Bryant starts and Fournier comes off the bench, there are options). That’s a solid playoff team.
That roster does not contend for a title. To get into the Mitchell trade as the third team, the Lakers might have to send out both picks, possibly with light protections. Is the idea of addition by subtraction with Westbrook worth it to Los Angeles?
It’s the same situation with the currently dead trade talks with Indiana around Buddy Hield and Myles Turner — that deal makes the Lakers a top-six team (most likely) but not a title contender. Is that worth both Lakers’ picks?
Whether or not the Lakers should and will strike a deal ultimately depends on exactly what they need to throw into the mix to get the trade done. The challenge for Rob Pelinka and the front office is they don’t have enough trade assets to get rid of Westbrook to make a lateral move. They get one swing at this, and Pelinka has to nail it.
Donovan Mitchell to the Knicks is very likely going to happen, the only questions are when and what the deal ends up looking like (how many unprotected picks do the Jazz get). The Lakers could be part of that move, but it will cost them. Do they want to pay that price?