Lakers Urged to Trade Russell Westbrook for $120 Million All-Star

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

Getty Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

The Los Angeles Lakers are going to try to find avenues to trade Russell Westbrook this summer and Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report has a trade idea involving the Charlotte Hornets.

In a June 6 column, Hughes urged the Lakers to trade Westbrook to the Hornets for Gordon Hayward.

“Gordon Hayward could hardly be more different from Russell Westbrook, which is a good place to start when making the case for his fit on the Los Angeles Lakers,” Hughes wrote. “A career 37.1 percent shooter from deep, Hayward is also among the best passing forwards in the league. His assist rate at his position has been in the 90th percentile or better in five of his last eight full seasons. And unlike Westbrook, Hayward isn’t a ball-dominant assist-hunter. He supplements his setups with many more ‘pass before the pass’ plays that serve as vital connective tissue to an offense.

“The Lakers need high-IQ weapons who can vibe with LeBron James without getting in his way or sabotaging possessions with hero-ball tendencies. Hayward comes with real health questions after playing no more than 52 games in any of the past three seasons, but he’s a far more balanced and reliable third option next to James and Anthony Davis than Westbrook ever was (or will be).”

The Lakers can’t trade Westbrook for Hayward straight up. Charlotte would have to match Westbrook’s salary for the 2022-23 season. The one-time MVP will make $47,063,478 if he picks up his player option.

What Trade Could Work?

According to ESPN’s trade machine, a deal in which the Lakers send Westbrook to the Hornets for Hayward and Terry Rozier works under CBA rules. Hayward will make $30,075,000 next season, while Rozier will earn $21,486,316.

Marc Stein of Substack reported in April that the Hornets have been mentioned by league insiders as a franchise that could be interested in trading for Westbrook, who has a close relationship with Michael Jordan. Hughes discussed that dynamic in his column for Bleacher Report.

“If the Charlotte Hornets view one year and $47 million left on Russ’ deal as roughly equivalent to the two years and $61.6 million left on Hayward’s, there’s at least an opportunity for a conversation here,” Hughes wrote. “Among the many factors that make Westbrook-to-Charlotte a sketchy proposition, the risk of him stunting LaMelo Ball’s growth ranks highest. But team governor Michael Jordan might identify with Westbrook’s hard-charging competitive stubbornness and view Russ as a tone-setter his young team needs. This one’s far-fetched. But then, that’s true of every trade involving the Lakers and Westbrook.”

Hayward averaged 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists for the Hornets in 2021-22 while shooting 45.9% from the field, 39.1% from beyond the arc and 84.6% from the free-throw line. He projects to fit well next to Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis since he can shoot the ball from the perimeter at a high clip.

However, the Lakers may not be interested in Hayward.

Stein: Lakers Don’t Want Players With Extensive Injury Histories

According to Stein, the Lakers don’t want to acquire players this summer with extensive injury histories. Hayward has played in only 93 out of a possible 154 regular-season games with the Hornets in two years.

“Yet it has since been conveyed to me that the Lakers have more boundaries than advertised when it comes to weighing Westbrook trades,” Stein wrote. “One league source said that injury histories would be a prime consideration in any deal, given how injuries have so routinely intruded upon the last two seasons for both 37-year-old LeBron James and 29-year-old Anthony Davis.

“Translation: The Lakers are unlikely to consent to a Charlotte trade headlined by Gordon Hayward — not after Hayward’s first two seasons in Charlotte have likewise been injury-filled. The Lakers surely understand that they need to factor in durability if they are taking on long-term money, which suggests that Terry Rozier would have to be the Southern California-bound headliner if the Hornets and Lakers eventually progress to serious trade talks.”

The Lakers need more shooters around James and Davis and Hayward fits that bill. The one-time All-Star is a career 37.1% shooter from beyond the arc. However, his body may be too fragile for the purple and gold.

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