Since the off-season began, the Los Angeles Lakers have been looking for a trade partner that would be willing to take on Russell Westbrook and the $47 million he’s owed in the final year of his contract.
Thus far, the Lakers have failed to find a trade that wouldn’t involve them including future draft assets to get the deal over the line – something the Lakers are keen to avoid given their aging and injury-prone roster.
As such, it makes sense that the Lakers are doing everything in their power to retain their future draft assets, as they keep one eye on the future. With that in mind, Fox Sports’ Skip Bayless recently suggested a bold strategy the Lakers could take, that would allow them to remove Westbrook from their roster, and retain their future draft assets – although it wouldn’t see any players coming back in a deal.
“Russ (Westbrook) was such a disaster, I fear that you’re completely and utterly stuck with him. I don’t see any scenario where Jeanie Buss is going to rubber stamp a bunch of draft picks to get him out of here. The best way out of this is to pay him his $47 million and send him home. Just do addition by subtraction.
That would be the very best thing she could do for the basketball team – because then you protect all your future picks, and you allow LeBron to figure it out without Westbrook in the equation. You just say ‘Ok, we screwed up, but we swallow our pride, swallow $47 million, and Russ, we don’t need ya,’ have fun,” Bayless said during a August 5 episode of Undisputed.
While this proposal may seem to be a little on the wild side, it certainly makes sense in terms of roster cohesion, and appeasing LeBron James – however, it could certainly hinder the Lakers chances of challenging for an NBA championship in the coming season.
LeBron Wants Westbrook to be Traded
According to a July 29 report by Marc Stein, LeBron ‘badly’ wants the Lakers to trade Westbrook – just one season after he played a significant role in convincing the front office to acquire him via trade.
“As it stands, barring a trade to ship out Westbrook suddenly coalescing after weeks of fruitless talks, (Darvin) Ham is going to have to coach Westbrook, which is bound to be challenging in the extreme given that Westbrook is well aware that the Lakers have been trying hard to move him…And that James badly wants Irving to take his place,” Stein wrote.
Sure, buying Westbrook out of his contract, or choosing to sit him for the entire season isn’t the same as trading him to an opposing team, but if LeBron’s issue is purely from a roster fit and team cohesion standpoint, removing Westbrook from the situation could be the easiest answer for all parties involved.
Anthony Davis’ Future is Unclear
Beyond Westbrook’s immediate future in Los Angeles, the Lakers also have to deal with the impending free agency of LeBron James, and will also have to make a decision on Anthony Davis – who has struggled for fitness since joining the organization.
When speaking to Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney, a Western Conference executive noted how multiple members of the Lakers front office would be interested to see what Davis could fetch them on the trade market, especially if they’re unsure whether he would re-sign beyond his current contract.
“A lot of that depends on where LeBron winds up. If he stays in Los Angeles and he stays a Laker, he had a lot personally invested in AD being there so, yes, in that case, Davis stays. But it is not a sure thing. There are some in that organization who would not mind seeing what they can bring back for AD, but they would not do it with LeBron there. You get to 2024, though, and maybe things change.The Lakers have AD for two more years for sure, and they can only hope he stays healthy. But after that, they have to think, is this guy really our future? He can’t stay on the floor. And he has to think, do I want to be here without LeBron? That’s why the Lakers do not want to give up those future picks,” the executive told Heavy.com’s, Sean Deveney.