Proposed Trade Sends Lakers Disgruntled 3-Time All-Star

russell westbrook

Getty Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.

After the worst slump of the season that saw the Los Angeles Lakers lose five straight games, the team is starting to get back into rhythm. They’re currently on a season-long four-game win streak and had one of their most impressive performances of the season on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. It’s possible that they are finally starting to figure things out after a rocky start.

However, that doesn’t mean they are sold on Russell Westbrook yet. LeBron James and Malik Monk deserve most of the credit for the Lakers turning things around. They’ve been playing at a very high level. Westbrook has been a lot better lately and is starting to limit the turnovers (he has three in the last two games combined). Despite that, the Lakers still need to see more consistency from him on both sides of the court.

Ben Simmons is a name that has been linked to the Lakers this season. The young Philadelphia 76ers guard has yet to play this season as he pushes to get traded from the team. While Simmons isn’t much of a threat on offense, he’s an elite defender, which is exactly what the Lakers need right now. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report has reported that the 76ers have no interest in taking on Westbrook’s contract for Simmons. It’s easy to see why they wouldn’t give up a young superstar for an aging one. A trade seems unlikely but Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus revealed what it could take for the two teams to cut a deal:

If Westbrook isn’t appealing enough, the Lakers can include Horton-Tucker. L.A. has limited draft currency, with just one of its 2027 or 2028 first-rounders to offer. Either pick has upside beyond the expiration of James’ and Davis’ current contracts, but that’s a risk that won’t have a clear answer for several years.

The New Orleans Pelicans have the Lakers’ 2024 first-rounder from the Davis trade but can delay that pick until 2025. If the Lakers can convince New Orleans to lock that selection in for the 2024 draft (perhaps for an additional second-rounder), Los Angeles would be able to send both its 2026 and 2028 first-round picks to Philadelphia.

That would lock the Sixers into the $47.1 million Westbrook is owed for 2022-23 (a player option, but one he’s highly likely to exercise). If the question is the fit with Joel Embiid, Westbrook as a non-shooter with a significant price tag makes the Lakers a true long shot for Simmons.

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Could This Proposal Convince the 76ers?

This deal proposed by Pincus would hinge largely on how the 76ers value Talen Horton-Tucker. The 21-year-old guard has shown star flashes in the past but has been inconsistent this season. He’s coming off two strong performances so if he keeps playing at a high level up to the trade deadline, he’ll be a lot more appealing to teams.

Also, Pincus noted that the Lakers’ draft picks in 2027 or 2028 could be very valuable as it’s possible that’s when they’re in their post-LeBron down years. Westbrook isn’t ideal but he’s still a good player who can impact winning. Considering Joel Embiid’s injury history, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to get a durable star on the roster in case he misses time. The 76ers don’t have a lot of great options right now. They could wait out the season and try to deal Simmons in the offseason but that would compromise this season. Is it wise to potentially waste one of Embiid’s prime years? It’s hard to know right now but it’s something Philadelphia should consider. Horton-Tucker and Westbrook are better than nothing.

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Is Simmons an Upgrade Over Westbrook?

Since Simmons hasn’t played this season, it’s easy to forget that he was playing some of his worst basketball when he was last on the court. He’s still a great defender but he’s got serious issues on offense. At 25-years-old, he’s a much more appealing player to work with than Westbrook but is he better right now?

For what the Lakers need, he likely is. Los Angeles has plenty of offensive talent on the roster right now between LeBron, Anthony Davis, Monk and Carmelo Anthony. Having an elite wing defender would do wonders for this team and he’d be a player to pair with Davis after LeBron retires. This move would make a lot of sense for the Lakers but it’s hard to see the 76ers making it happen.

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