Lakers Showed ‘Covert Interest’ in Russell Westbrook Trade: Report

Russell Westbrook Lakers

Getty The Lakers explored the idea of trading Russell Westbrook.

The Los Angeles Lakers showed some “covert interest” in trading Russell Westbrook, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick.

The Lakers’ struggles with Westbrook are well-documented at this point. While the team has gone on a streak of sorts, winning four of their last five games, they’ve done so largely due to the excellence of LeBron James. The 37-year-old has scored at least 31 points in eight of his last nine games.

At 20-19 and just sixth place in the Western Conference — despite a weak and home-heavy schedule — the Lakers don’t resemble anything close to a title contender. Westbrook’s inefficient and turnover-prone style of play has led the Lakers to regression just over a year after the team won a championship.

The quick realization that Westbrook may not be the proper fit for this team led the Lakers to explore some trades for Westbrook — to absolutely no success, as Amick notes.

“But it’s James’ greatness (averaging 34.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists in the past nine games) and the emergence of minimum-salary addition Malik Monk since he became a starter five games ago (20.8 points on 55.6 percent shooting overall and 45.9 percent from 3 on 7.4 attempts per game) that has kept them afloat without Davis,” says Amick.

“All of which explains why sources say the Lakers showed some covert interest in discussing a possible Westbrook trade with rival executives earlier this season,” Amick continues. “A deal appears extremely unlikely before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, if only because his deal that was once seen by so many as untradeable is such a massive obstacle. But inside the Lakers, it seems, there is some recognition that this hasn’t gone as (James and Davis had) planned.”

Advanced Stats Paint Ugly Picture for Westbrook

One can go on for days about Westrook’s play being a detriment to the Lakers. Outside of his 4.6 turnovers per game (second in the NBA), his .519 true shooting percentage ranks only above Talen Horton-Tucker among regular rotation players on the team. Making matters even worse is that Westbrook’s 109 defensive rating in comparison to his 100 offensive rating (minus-nine point differential) is once again the worst of any Lakers rotation player outside of Horton-Tucker.

To his credit, Westbrook has played a little better as of late — he committed zero turnovers in the Lakers’ win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, January 4 — but the Lakers are still just 4-5 in the absence of Anthony Davis.

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Lakers May Find Westbrook Trade in Offseason

More than anything, Westbrook’s massive salary of $44.2 million this season (with a player option worth $47 million next season) has made it impossible to move him. As CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn notes, the Lakers’ only realistic options of a trade when it pertains to matching salaries are for players such as the Philadelphia 76ers‘ Ben Simmons and the Houston Rockets’ John Wall.

In the case of the Sixers, they showed no interest in a Westbrook trade — despite having a very unhappy player who doesn’t appear willing to play for them ever again. That kind of says everything you need to know about the perception of Westbrook — a player who has been traded three times in the past three years alone — around the league.

If the Lakers want to pull off a trade involving Westbrook, the more likely scenario sees them finding more viable opportunities in the offseason. Westbrook will be considered an expiring contract at that point — making him more appealing to teams that consider themselves to be in “sell-now” mode.

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