Lakers Urged to Trade Controversial Star for ‘Supporting Cast Members’

LA Lakers Russell Westbrook

Getty Los Angeles Lakers star Russell Westbrook looks on during a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

No doubt sensing that his team’s season could be in danger of getting away from him, Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka pulled the trigger on a three-way deal that resulted in Rajon Rondo moving on to Cleveland. In doing so, he opened up a roster spot that could be used to add a more useful piece.

Right now, the smart money is on Stanley Johnson, who capitalized on his hardship deal in a major way, to fill the spot. In any case, there’s a good chance that Lakers brass is still looking at other, more significant moves to get Los Angeles back into the thick of the playoff race.

To that end, there’s some serious soul-searching to be done. The Lakers may have the most star-studded team in the league where lifetime achievement is concerned, however, they’re also impossibly old, subpar at spacing the floor, turnover-prone and not good enough on D to make up for those things.

Something has to give — or, rather, someone has to go. For his part, Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale has an idea about which player should be the one who is sent packing.

B/R: The Lakers ‘Need’ to Trade Russell Westbrook

UNDISPUTED – Skip details Russell Westbrook's 9 turnovers in Lakers' win vs TimberwolvesUNDISPUTED – Skip details Russell Westbrook's 9 turnovers in Lakers' win vs Timberwolves2022-01-03T15:54:07Z

So, no surprises here — according to Favale, Russell Westbrook is the player who Pelinka should be actively calling other teams about. In other news, water: wet. However, the hoops pundit was also quick to note that fans can’t really lay the blame for all of the Lakers’ woes on the former NBA MVP’s shoulders.

“Russell Westbrook is not the Los Angeles Lakers’ only problem,” Favale wrote. “He isn’t even the problem.”

He further noted that there are actually some good things happening where Westbrook is concerned:

Over his past 25 games, he’s shooting 60-plus percent inside the restricted area and above 35 percent on triples, including 53.3 percent from the corners (8-of-15).

Hope isn’t lost for the Lakers’ Big Three, either. Los Angeles outscores opponents by 12.2 points per 100 possessions when Russ and LeBron James play with Anthony Davis at center. Those setups have merely been limited by absences, first from LeBron and now from AD (left knee).

The problem, which has been apparent since the team dealt multiple key players to spring Westbrook from Washington, is that Westbrook’s monster salary (in tandem with LA’s other monster salaries) has crushed the team’s ability to field a roster with any kind of depth. And the group that was assembled is also flawed in key areas.

A Westbrook trade could go a long way toward making the Lakers a more complete (and competitive) team.

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The Problem Is Still the Same

Although Westbrook is the clear choice here, the fact remains that the Lakers likely aren’t going to find any takers for him — not ahead of the trade deadline anyway. However, Favale believes there may be something to be done with him once the season is over:

He’ll be an expiring contract over the summer, at which time the Lakers must try parlaying his $47.1 million salary (player option) into two, three or four supporting cast members who deepen a desperately shallow rotation.

If Pelinka can pull off what Favale is suggesting, there may be some hope yet for the 2022-23 season. Barring something unexpected, though, the current campaign may be a lost cause.


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