Lakers Make Final Call on Russell Westbrook’s Future Amid Trade Rumors: Report

Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook

Getty Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook

The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly unlikely to move All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook before the league’s February 9 trade deadline, according to a December 15 report from Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Westbrook has been on the trade block since last season, but his improved play off the bench has made it “increasingly unlikely” that he will be dealt by the Lakers, who are 11-16.

“According to a source with knowledge of the Lakers’ plans, Westbrook’s play this past month has made it increasingly unlikely that he will be traded before the league’s Feb. 9 deadline,” Amick reported. “Since becoming a sixth man on Oct. 28, the 34-year-old, who is in the final year of his (massive) contract, has averaged 15.2 points, 7.9 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 turnovers and 28.2 minutes. For the sake of perspective, only six players (Luka Dončić, Nikola Jokić, Ja Morant, Pascal Siakam, Jrue Holiday and James Harden) have met those 15-7–and-5 marks so far this season. The Lakers have gone 11-12 in that span.”

Westbrook, who is on an expiring contract, is averaging 14.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists this season while shooting 40.3% from the field, 28.4% from beyond the arc and 69.8% from the free-throw line. The nine-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer is putting up 15.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game since coming off the bench while shooting 41.7% overall and 31.1% from 3-point range.

Lakers’ Net Rating Has Been 8 Points Better With Westbrook Off the Floor

Even though Westbrook has played well as a reserve, the Lakers’ net rating has been eight points better when he’s off the floor than when he’s on the court, per Amick, which is why so many pundits believe Los Angeles needs to trade the 2016-17 MVP.

“Production aside, Westbrook’s imperfect fit with these Lakers clearly remains an issue,” Amick wrote. “Consider this: Even with those gaudy numbers that he has produced as a sixth man since Oct. 28, the Lakers’ net rating has been eight points better when he’s off the floor (plus-4.6) than when he’s on (minus-3.4; the worst mark among the team’s top seven rotational players in that span).”

According to a December 14 report from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers have internal concerns that Westbrook doesn’t complement LeBron James. NBA sources have listed the Miami Heat as a potential destination for Westbrook as a post-trade buyout candidate if he’s traded.

“But concerns persist internally that Westbrook doesn’t complement LeBron James and that the mix of stars may not work in the postseason when rotations shorten. The Lakers also have guards Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (all three expiring contracts) as trade pieces for a smaller deal—or with Westbrook in a potential blockbuster,” Pincus wrote. “The answer will depend on what other teams offer. The Lakers will give more if the return provides the team with a credible chance to flourish in the playoffs. Potential trade partners wouldn’t necessarily desire Westbrook, Beverley or Nunn for what they bring to the court. Rather, they would be the necessary salaries needed to take on in order to nab the Lakers’ distant firsts (2027 and 2029), which have value in part because they’re long after James and Davis are projected to be with the franchise. NBA sources have listed the Miami Heat as a potential destination for Westbrook as a post-trade buyout candidate.”

Report: Jeanie Buss Was Reluctant to Trade Westbrook to Pacers

The Lakers almost traded Westbrook and their draft picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Indiana Pacers for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield before training camp started. However, Jeanie Buss didn’t want to part ways with Westbrook, according to Amick.

“Westbrook may not be thrilled with the role, but his improved play and intensity speak volumes about his willingness to accept the reality that it’s the right move for this team,” Amick wrote. “This is why Lakers owner Jeanie Buss was known to be reluctant to give up on Westbrook in those days leading into training camp, when they came so close to doing the well-chronicled deal with Indiana that would have sent Westbrook to the Pacers in exchange for big man Myles Turner and sharpshooter Buddy Hield.”

Westbrook, 34, has the lowest plus-minus for the Lakers this season at -71.

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