Per CBA rules, the Lakers could trade Westbrook and two future first-round picks to the Sixers for James Harden, who also has a player option for the 2022-23 season. Harden’s player option is worth $47,366,760.
The Sixers traded Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and draft picks to the Brooklyn Nets for Harden. However, the trade didn’t result in a championship. Philadelphia lost to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs in six games and Harden was a ghost in the second half of Game 6. The Beard took only two shots after halftime and finished with 11 points.
This Trade Could Benefit Both Teams
Westbrook has many flaws. He’s not a good shooter and turns the ball over at a high rate. However, the two-time scoring champion always plays his heart out, something James touched on during his exit interview on April 11.
“One thing about Russ that I love and will always love is just his competitive spirit, what he brings to the game every single night,” LeBron said about Westbrook. “When you’re in a profession where so many injuries happen and so many things go on, to have a guy that’s reliable and can put on the uniform every single night, that’s something that I respect out of everything. I’m not gonna sit here and make decisions for the front office and things of that nature, but I love being a teammate with Russ and that’s just the way it is.”
Westbrook plays with the passion the Sixers needed from Harden against the Heat. The UCLA product would likely never take two shots in the second half of a playoff game. Harden looked disengaged and wasn’t aggressive enough in an elimination game.
At this stage of his career, Harden is better suited to be a third option. If he got traded to the Lakers, the lefty would be the third option on offense behind James and Davis. Harden could focus on playmaking and spot-up shooting and leave the heavy lifting to James and Davis.
Harden is a better shooter than Westbrook. The former shoots 36.1% from beyond the arc for his career, while the latter is at 30.5%. The Lakers need perimeter players who can roam around the 3-point line while James and Davis have the ball and sink 3-pointers at a high rate and Harden fits that bill.
Lakers Have Nothing to Lose by Trading Westbrook for Harden
Harden isn’t the elite player he was with the Houston Rockets when he won MVP and led the league in scoring three times. However, he’s still an upgrade over Westbrook since he can space the floor.
The Lakers have nothing to lose by trading Westbrook for Harden. The worst thing that could happen is Harden underwhelms in the playoffs (if Los Angeles makes it next season) again and doesn’t impact winning. If that occurs, the Lakers can just let Harden walk as a free agent in the summer of 2023.
Sure, Los Angeles would lose two future draft picks, but the odds of those draft picks turning into a player of Harden’s caliber — even this version of him — are very low.