A new landing spot may be emerging for Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook as the New York Knicks are a team to watch, per NBA insider Marc Stein. The Knicks may have an interest in trading for Westbrook if the team can land Donovan Mitchell, but New York would likely agree to a buyout with the former All-Star. Trading for Westbrook would be a way for the Knicks to potentially move off of Julius Randle’s four-year, $117 million contract, allowing the franchise to create cap spaced for the future.
“We’ve been writing on this Substack for months that the Lakers do not want to attach future first-round picks to a Russell Westbrook trade just to facilitate Westbrook’s departure,” Stein wrote on July 18, 2022. “… But also that the Lakers are wary of taking back long-term salary that hampers future flexibility. Yet one league source advised me in Las Vegas to keep an eye on the Knicks and Lakers discussing a potential Westbrook deal if — IF — Leon Rose can successfully bring Donovan Mitchell to Madison Square Garden.
“The source’s thinking: After adding Mitchell, New York would be expected to explore scenarios to trade away Julius Randle. And Randle, just one season removed from his breakthrough to All-Star and All-NBA status, is presumably the sort of player that the Lakers would have to consider taking on if — IF — they are unable to use Westbrook’s $47.1 million expiring contract in a trade for Kyrie Irving. Randle, 27, is entering Year 1 of a four-year deal with the Knicks worth $117 million ($106 million guaranteed) and, of course, played his first four NBA seasons with the Lakers.”
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Could the Lakers Be Interested in Reuniting With Randle?
The Lakers have a great familiarity with Randle selecting the forward with the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Randle played his first four seasons in Los Angeles before signing with New Orleans in 2018. The big man is just one year removed from an All-Star campaign averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists while shooting 41.1% from long range in his 71 starts during the 2020-21 season.
Randle had mixed results last season averaging 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists while only hitting 30.8% of his threes in 2021-22. Trading for Randle only makes sense if Anthony Davis is willing to play primarily at center. The challenge for the Lakers is Randle’s four-year, $117 million contract begins this upcoming season stretching through the 2025-26 season. For as bad as Westbrook’s $47 million salary looks, his deal ends after this season, while Randle would be much more of a long-term commitment.
The Knicks would also need to include more salary in the potential trade to match Westbrook’s contract. Evan Fournier would be a name to watch given the three seasons remaining on his four-year, $73 million contract. As a career 38.1% three-point shooter, Fournier would help address a glaring need for the Lakers but, like Randle, represents another long-term financial commitment.
The Jazz Are Another Potential Landing Spot for Westbrook
Time will tell if Los Angeles will be able to pry Kyrie Irving away from Brooklyn, but thus far the Nets have not appeared to have a massive interest in acquiring Westbrook. The Jazz could be another potential landing spot for Westbrook depending on how things shake out with Mitchell, per Stein.
“The Lakers’ preferred scenario, to be clear, is still trading for Irving, but the Nets A) appear focused on nailing down a Durant trade before pressing for Irving’s exit and B) have expressed great reluctance regarding any trade with the Lakers that doesn’t involve a third team willing to take on Westbrook’s contract (which Brooklyn does not want),” Stein added. “As my Bleacher Report colleague Jake Fischer reported recently on his “Please Don’t Aggregate This” live audio show, Utah is another team regarded by some league executives as a potential Westbrook trade partner if — IF — Utah successfully completes a Mitchell trade.”