The Los Angeles Lakers have limited options if they opt to move on from Russell Westbrook. During an interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast, former Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris noted that the Lakers should not be ruled out as a potential landing spot for Rockets guard John Wall.
Simmons explained that the Timberwolves are one of the few teams that could make a move for Wall but added that the Rockets could swap Wall for Westbrook again in an unlikely trade scenario.
“I’m giving you the only team [Timberwolves], this is it we have no other teams unless it’s Lakers’ Westbrook for Wall yet again,” Simmons said during the November 24 episode.
While Simmons threw out the trade as a long shot, Voulgaris admitted the idea could not be ruled out given the Lakers’ propensity for making big trades.
“I mean, never underestimate the Lakers’ ability to make a trade that people think no one else would make,” Voulgaris responded. “They’re definitely the team that does that. They make it happen.”
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Wall & Westbrook Have Nearly Identical Undesirable Contracts That Expire in 2023
Wall and Westbrook were part of a trade between the Wizards and Rockets in 2020. The two players share some similarities in that they are both former All-Stars with unappealing contracts. Wall’s salary is $44.3 million this season and his four-year, $171 million deal ends after the 2022-23 season.
Westbrook has a nearly identical deal as Wall for the next two seasons as the Lakers guard has a $44.2 million salary for 2021-22 and will also be a free agent in 2023. Both guards have a player option that could make them a free agent after this season.
The Rockets Are Not Playing Wall as They Seek a Trade for PG
The Rockets have committed to not playing Wall as the team explores trade options for the five-time All-Star, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. The implied logic is that the 2-16 Rockets have no problem keeping Wall on the sideline as they get closer to snagging another high lottery pick.
“The commitment to the 20-year-old [Kevin Porter Jr.] and 18-year-old [Jalen Green] leaves Wall, a five-time All-Star who was traded to Houston in the Russell Westbrook deal last year, without a starting role,” MacMahon detailed on September 14. “Wall, 31, is not expected to play for Houston, as team management and Wall mutually decided that a bench role for him wouldn’t be beneficial to either party, sources said.”
Why Would the Lakers Trade for Wall?
The obvious question is whether the Lakers would have an interest in exploring a trade for Wall. It may seem like an unappealing option, but the Lakers have limited potential deals if they want to move on from Westbrook. After missing all of 2019-20, Wall averaged 20.6 points, 6.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals while shooting 31.7% from long range.
The point guard is not much of an upgrade from Westbrook as a shooter given Wall is a career 32.3% from three-point land. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix believes the 31-year-old guard can still play at a high level.
“But why would Wall want this? He has to know: A trade isn’t coming,” Mannix noted on November 24. “Teams are interested in Wall but only if he declines his $47 million player option for next season (he won’t) or wriggles free via buyout in this one (he isn’t). Rockets could also waive him. Wall looked remarkably good in returning from a two-year layoff last season. His All-Star days are over, but there’s no reason why Wall, at 31, can’t regain a place among the upper half of NBA playmakers.”
Chances are the Lakers will stick with Westbrook, especially given his limited playing time with both Anthony Davis and LeBron James. If the Lakers do decide to mix it up at the trade deadline, Wall is one of the few potential options Los Angeles general manager Rob Pelinka will have in a potential Westbrook swap.