It appears the Los Angeles Lakers have started to accept a harsh reality regarding Russell Westbrook. With the nine-time All-Star getting benched late in the fourth quarter in a recent game against the Indiana Pacers, it’s clear that they don’t trust him in tight spots. The Lakers are a disappointing 22-23 and are eighth in the Western Conference standings.
There is no simple fix to the team’s struggles and the offseason trade for Westbrook gave the team limited flexibility to make trades. Los Angeles has shown interest in moving on from the former MVP but has had no luck. However, an opportunity to send him away could be emerging. According to NBA insider Marc Stein, a Westbrook trade was previously deemed “impossible.” He now believes that there’s one suitor who could bail the Lakers out:
I have been advised that I should amend my previous characterization of the Lakers’ finding a Westbrook trade from outright impossible to extremely unlikely. There is at least one team out there that would take him, league sources say, if the conditions are right.
That team, surprisingly, is the Houston Rockets.
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What Would Rockets Want for Taking Westbrook?
The Rockets are last place in the Western Conference and won’t be competing for a title anytime soon. They’re in a position where they can help out title-contending teams while setting themselves up for the future. However, if the Lakers hope to have a trade partner for Westbrook, it’s going to cost. John Wall has already been traded for Westbrook once but that could be on the table again, per Stein.
“Yet sources say that the Lakers could convince Houston to take Westbrook back for Wall if they attached their 2027 first-round draft pick to the deal,” Stein wrote. “The Lakers could naturally try to offer multiple second-round picks instead, but L.A.’s 2027 first-rounder is the piece rival teams naturally covet.”
Giving up that 2027 first-round pick is a steep price for the Lakers. That’s their most valuable asset as LeBron James will likely be retired by then and who knows where Anthony Davis will be five years from now.
This Deal Is Not Likely to Happen
The Westbrook has been a failure to this point but is it bad enough to where the Lakers need to give up a valuable draft just to get away from him? It’s not like adding Wall helps open up salary cap space as he’s got a very similar deal to Westbrook. Stein isn’t buying that this trade is likely to come to fruition despite the rumblings.
“To be clear: This is not a scenario likely to materialize between now and Feb. 10 or one I would advise the Lakers to pursue so soon even after all of my criticism of the Westbrook trade in the first place,” Stein wrote.
The Lakers are in a tough spot as they don’t want to waste a great year from LeBron. They may just not have any other choice but to keep Westbrook. A lot can happen between now and February 10. If Westbrook continues to get benched late in games and reacts poorly, Los Angeles may not have a choice but to move on from him no matter the cost.