The Los Angeles Lakers could still trade Russell Westbrook before the February 9 trade deadline and one NBA analyst believes the purple and gold should consider trading the one-time MVP to the New York Knicks.
In a January 31 column called “Lakers: Two Knicks Trade Pitches To Bring Youth To Los Angeles,” Alex Kirschenbaum of Sports Illustrated proposed that the Lakers trade Westbrook and a future first-round pick to the Knicks for RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose. This trade works under the NBA’s CBA rules.
“The big issue with this kind of deal is that Fournier technically has three years remaining on a current big-money deal, although it’s really just next season because 2024-25 is a team option,” Kirschenbaum wrote. “The veteran shooting guard has been so lackluster for New York that he’s out of the rotation. Rose, who is similarly no longer in Tom Thibodeau’s good graces with New York, has a $15.6 million club option in 2023-24, meaning he’s effectively coming off the books this summer. The Lakers would have to be really excited about young swingman RJ Barrett, the former third pick in the 2019 NBA draft out of Duke. Beyond the long-term money of Fournier, Barrett is also going to get a big raise next year, when his new four-year, $107 million contract extension kicks in (it could be worth up to $120 million if he meets certain incentives).
“To be fair, Barrett is an exciting young player with All-Star upside and would represent a massive upgrade on the wing for the Lakers. LA could always try to package Fournier and Rose, along with another first-round pick, later this season, or wait till the draft, when the team’s 2023 first-rounder (the Pelicans’ pick, most likely) becomes trade-eligible.”
Westbrook is on an expiring contract. The future Hall of Famer, who is making $47.1 million this season, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Westbrook is averaging 15.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists in 49 games in 2022-23.
Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft, signed a four-year, $120 million rookie scale extension with the Knicks before the season started. He will have earned more than $142 million in his career once his contract ends in 2027. Barrett is averaging 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season.
Both Fournier and Rose, who signed their latest contracts in August 2021, are out of the Knicks’ rotation right now. The former signed a four-year, $73 million deal with New York, while the latter agreed to a three-year, $43.6 million contract. Rose, the 2010-11 MVP, has a club option for next season worth $15.6 million.
Russell Westbrook Is Still Hurting the Lakers
Westbrook has played well since Lakers head coach Darvin Ham moved him to the bench. However, the nine-time All-Star is still hurting Los Angeles, according to Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report.
“And though Russell Westbrook has settled nicely into his reserve role, off-ball lapses on defense and questionable late-game decision-making are still too common,” Bailey wrote on January 31. “L.A. is minus-9.4 points per 100 clutch (defined by the league as the final five minutes of games within five points) possessions when Westbrook is on the floor. If the Lakers can package his expiring contract with a first-round pick (or two) for another player (or players) who checks some of the same boxes as (Rui) Hachimura, L.A. can go from fringe play-in team to the squad that no one wants to see in a seven-game series.”
Westbrook, who has a plus-minus of -44 this season, is third in the NBA in turnovers. The UCLA product continues to struggle with his jumper, as Westbrook is shooting only 28.8% from beyond the arc.
The Lakers Have Concerns About Russell Westbrook’s ‘Playoff Viability’
The Lakers are in 13th place in the Western Conference standings. However, they are only three games back of the sixth spot. The team could go on a run now that Anthony Davis is back in the lineup next to LeBron James, but Westbrook’s decision-making and poor shooting skills could hurt the club. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report reported on January 30 that the Lakers have concerns about Westbrook’s playoff viability.
“The Lakers are fighting to climb into the top 10 in the Western Conference,” Pincus wrote. “While coach Darvin Ham has found a viable role for Westbrook off the bench, the franchise does have concerns about his playoff viability, per multiple sources.”
Barrett, Fournier and Rose aren’t stars. However, getting three players in exchange for Westbrook would give the Lakers more depth and shooters around James and Davis.