The Los Angeles Lakers season could be ending earlier than anybody could’ve anticipated. The team is a loss away from falling to the 11th seed in the Western Conference, which would keep them out of the play-in tournament. The would put an ugly bow on what has been a nightmare of a season.
Regardless of how this season ends, the Lakers need to make major changes in the offseason. The first decision has to be what to do with Russell Westbrook. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report previously reported that the team would consider releasing the guard and stretching out his contract. However, that’s isn’t likely to be the case. Fischer revealed that he received new information after the initial report.
“We’ve definitely been talking about the wave and stretch idea for a couple weeks now. I will say after I wrote that I was kind of told that that’s very unlikely to happen,” Fischer said, via Marc Stein’s Substack. “I mean, anything could change here. But I think I don’t think the Lakers intend to carry dead money on future salary because of Russell Westbrook.”
Based on this latest report, it appears the Lakers have decided that cutting Westbrook outright isn’t a realistic option.
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Any Chance Westbrook Declines Player Option?
There’s one lifeline that could save the Lakers from Westbrook’s contract. The former MVP has a player option on his contract. If he declines it, it would allow him to hit free agency and choose his next destination. The Lakers would be absolutely thrilled if he chose to do that.
While a divorce between the two sides would be best, Westbrook declining the player option is extremely unlikely. He’s set to get paid $47 million next season. That will more than likely be his last big payday as an NBA player. If he continues playing after his contract is up, he’ll be lucky to get half of the $47 million he’ll get paid next season. There’s no reason he should want to stay with the Lakers due to how bad this season has been but that would be a lot of money to leave on the table. He’d have to really want out of Los Angeles to even consider turning down that money.
Trade Still Most Likely Option for Lakers
With a roster cut or player option decline unlikely, the Lakers will need to look for a trade partner. It shouldn’t be impossible. Westbrook could still help sell a lot of tickets for one of the league’s mediocre teams that’s flush with cap space. 2023’s free agency pool is going to be impressive so getting a big contract like Westbrook’s off the books in time for that could be appealing.
The Lakers can’t expect to get anything that great in return. They’ll simply just be doing what they can to get off his contract. There’s no situation where the Lakers come out better off than they were before the Westbrook trade.