Since the Los Angeles Lakers season ended, Russell Westbrook’s future has been a topic of conversation, with many expecting him to be suiting up for a new team before the new season begins, although outside of the New York Knicks, not many teams have shown a legitimate interest in trading for the aging point guard – and even then, that was just a rumor.
However, it’s looking increasingly likely that Westbrook will remain in Los Angeles for the upcoming season, primarily due to the front office’s reluctance to attach future assets to a deal to move off of his contract.
According to a recent report from Marc Stein in his Stein Line newsletter, any notion of attaching draft picks or young talent into a trade to remove Westbrook from their roster has now firmly been ruled out.
“The Lakers continue to signal — at least for now with three months to go until training camp opens — that they do not want to force a Westbrook trade that costs them additional assets. Regarding the long-running idea that Westbrook could be swapped again for Houston’s John Wall, since both would be making near-identical $47 million salaries next season, one source briefed on the situation told me this week that Houston’s interest has always been predicated on the Lakers including draft compensation to sweeten the deal, which L.A. steadfastly refuses to do,” Stein reported on June 10.
Westbrook Expected to Opt Into Final Year
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, but if recent reports are to be believed, Westbrook has decided to opt into the final year of his contract. Of course, when you factor in the $47 million value of his player option, it seems unlikely that any other outcome was on the cards.
Still, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Westbrook is likely to make his decision official at the end of June.
“Russell Westbrook can opt into the final years of his contract at $47 million, he’s expected to do that at the end of the month, but Russell Westbrook is really enthusiastic in getting to know Darvin Ham so far and expects to talk a lot more with him about his role, how he fits into as they move through the summer towards training camp,” Wojnarowski recently reported
Westbrook can Still be a Success
A significant issue for Westbrook this past season, was that he was being played in a role that didn’t suit his skill set. Asking the superstar point guard to become an off-ball threat was always destined to fail, as was limiting his ability to rip down rebounds and turn the jets on in transition.
However, under Darvin Ham, things could be different – especially if the front office makes some moves to improve the team’s spacing. After all, out of the Lakers three star players, Westbrook was the only one to be consistently available throughout the season, and that could be important moving forwards.
Anthony Davis doesn’t project to be a picture of health moving forwards, and LeBron James’ age means that there’s always the chance he misses stretches of the regular season. As such, Westbrook’s 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game could become integral to the team remaining competitive during any potential injury-induced absences.
With Westbrook’s future all but decided, the front office can now turn their attention toward improving the Lakers rotation, adding shooters, and bringing in some additional youth to supplement a team that struggled to remain healthy throughout last season.