The Los Angeles Lakers are likely going to need to make a trade to have a chance to keep pace in the Western Conference this season. The challenge for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka is that his best trade asset is Russell Westbrook, and the team is likely going to have to attach future draft picks to move the point guard.
The Ringer’s Bill Simmons suggested a wild trade idea with the Wizards which would send former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis to the Lakers in exchange for Westbrook. Los Angeles sends Washington their two unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 as part of the deal with Kyle Kuzma going back to the Lakers to complete the trade.
“[Rob] Pelinka calls, he says, I got Westbrook,” the analyst explained during the October 12, 2022 episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” “I got my unprotected [picks in] 27 and 29. Give me Kuzma and Porzingis. We’ll call it into the league. …I’m saying do it in the next two months so [the Wizards are] in the [Victor] Wembanyama sweepstakes or Scoot [Henderson] sweepstakes. What’s the point of winning 35 games this year?”
Does Porzingis Make the Lakers Better?
Simmons was throwing the proposal out given both teams have bad contracts. Trading away Porzingis could allow the Wizards to have a better chance to land a high draft pick in order to select top prospects Victor Wembanyama or Scott Henderson in the 2023 NBA draft. The question the Lakers would need to answer is how much better Porzingis makes the team.
The former All-Star had a solid finish to the 2021-22 season after being traded to Washington. Porzingis averaged 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 36.7% from long range. A couple things to consider, trading Westbrook could be a bit of addition by subtraction regardless of what Pelinka is able to land in return for the star. Westbrook averaged a -6.7 plus-minus last season meaning the Lakers were a far better team when the point guard was off the floor.
Porzingis may no longer be an All-Star, but he is still able to contribute, especially as a third scoring option next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. As a career 35.3% three-point shooter, the big man also has a better touch from long range than Westbrook’s 30.5%. Porzingis could play center allowing Davis to slide back into his preferred power forward position. The move also clears up a logjam at point guard with Patrick Beverley, Dennis Schröder (when healthy) and Kendrick Nunn receiving the majority of minutes at the position.
Bringing Kuzma back to L.A. would be an added bonus for the Lakers as the forward thrived with his expanded role in Washington. Kuzma averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 34.1% from the three-point line during his 66 starts in 2021-22.
Woj: The Lakers Are Expected to Wait Until After Thanksgiving to Make Trade
The main negative for the Lakers with this trade proposal is taking on Porzingis’ $158 million contract which still has two seasons remaining. Porzingis has a $33.8 million salary for this season and $36 million next year.
This move would take the Lakers out of the possible position of adding a key free agent in 2023 once Westbrook’s $47 million salary is off the books. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers are unlikely to make any trades until after Thanksgiving.
“I’m told to expect Rob Pelinka and the Lakers to wait until post-Thanksgiving, 20 games into the season and see what teams may start pivoting, who don’t start off well,” Wojnarowski explained during the October 19 edition of “NBA Countdown.” “Who decide that they may start to look to unload players and perhaps get involved in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. To get down in the lottery, instead of as we saw in previous years, teams chasing the play-in tournament.”