The Los Angeles Lakers begin the season with Russell Westbrook on the roster, but all signs point to the team once again exploring possible trades ahead of the deadline. Westbrook’s massive $47 million salary could have some mid-season value to teams looking to clear cap space given the point guard’s contract expires at the end of 2022-23.
The Ringer’s Michael Pina outlined a few bold predictions heading into the NBA season including the Suns trading star point guard Chris Paul. Pina views the Lakers as a perfect potential landing spot for Paul, finally uniting the star with longtime friend LeBron James.
The wild three-team proposal also involves the Hornets as the Lakers land Paul and disgruntled forward Jae Crowder. Los Angeles sends Westbrook and an unprotected first-round pick to Charlotte. The Lakers also send a future first-round selection to the Suns as part of the blockbuster deal.
“Not every team will be interested but a few would bite, the Lakers being one—they have Russell Westbrook and, of course, those two unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029,” Pina wrote on October 18, 2022. “Things could get even more intriguing if a third team gets roped in. Let’s say Los Angeles gets Paul and Jae Crowder; the Hornets get Westbrook, Cam Payne, and an unprotected Lakers first in 2029; and the Suns get Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and an unprotected Lakers pick in 2027.
“The Suns don’t value the draft, but they still exist in a marketplace that does, so owning a future first from the Lakers makes it easier to make another trade to enhance their depth. The Hornets would do this because they’re not good and morally obligated to tank.”
Are the Lakers Willing to Take on Paul’s $120 Million Contract?
Trading for Paul would end any hope the Lakers have of potentially signing a significant free agent in 2023. The Lakers would also need to consider if they are willing to take on Paul’s four-year, $120 million contract, a high price for an NBA player approaching his 38th birthday. The veteran guard has a $28.4 million salary this season and still has three years remaining on his deal. If the Lakers are looking for a bit of a silver lining, Paul’s salary for the 2024-25 season is not fully guaranteed, per Spotrac.
Paul helped transform the Suns into a consistent title contender but has unfortunately battled injuries during the postseason that hampered his effectiveness. The guard played 65 of 82 games last season for Phoenix averaging 14.7 points, 10.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals while shooting 31.7% from long range.
Paul Is the Lone Member of Team Banana Boat That James Has Not Played With
Paul remains the lone member of “Team Banana Boat” that James has yet to play with since entering the league in 2003. During a 2017 interview with Bleacher Report, James named Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade as players he eventually wanted to play with, a list that has since grown as King James has expressed his admiration for additional stars like Luka Doncic and Steph Curry. James’ wish was partly fulfilled when Anthony signed with the Lakers in 2021 but the superstar has yet to team up with Paul.
“I really hope that, before our career is over, we can all play together,” James told Bleacher Report at the time. “At least one, maybe one or two seasons—me, Melo, D-Wade, CP—we can get a year in. I would actually take a pay cut to do that.”