There are plenty of recent Los Angeles Lakers moves that have fans and analysts alike scratching their heads. It is perhaps the moves the franchise has opted not to make that have also played a critical role in the team’s lack of success.
The year-long rumor of the Lakers trading Russell Westbrook to the Rockets for John Wall never came to fruition. CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn argues that the Lakers would be in a much better place if the team had made the blockbuster deal prior to last season’s trade deadline. Instead, the Lakers still have Westbrook on the roster, no viable trade on deck and the team is 0-3 to begin the season.
“But the rejuvenation of John Wall is looking especially frustrating to Lakers fans because he quite easily could have been wearing purple and gold on Thursday,” Quinn wrote on October 21, 2022. “After an entire offseason dominated by the discourse surrounding Russell Westbrook trades involving two first-round picks, it’s worth noting that the Lakers potentially could have dealt Westbrook last February for no more than a pick swap. Wall, already traded for Westbrook once in 2020, would have been the return. Depending on the construction of the trade, the Lakers could have retained both their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to use in future deals.”
Wall Would Have Had a $47 Million Salary With the Lakers
Wall’s tenure with the Clippers is admittedly a small sample size but the former All-Star is off to a solid start. The veteran is averaging 16 points, 3.5 assists, two rebounds and one steal during his first two games in Los Angeles. Wall still wouldn’t solve the Lakers’ ongoing shooting woes as the guard is just 25% from long range this season and is a career 32.3% three-point shooter.
The circumstances are also different than it would have been with the Lakers. Wall signed a two-year, $13.2 million contract with the Clippers that comes with a reasonable $6.4 million salary for the 2022-23 season. The Lakers would have inherited Wall’s four-year, $171 million contract that, like Westbrook, came with a $47 million salary this season. However, Wall’s previous deal ended after the 2022-23 season which would have allowed the Lakers to be players in free agency next offseason.
The Lakers Are Running Out of Trade Options for Westbrook
Despite the temptation, Quinn still thinks the Lakers would once again pass on a potential Wall for Westbrook swap. Yet, the Lakers would have been able to keep their two future draft picks even if the team acquired Wall.
“In this case, even hindsight isn’t 20/20. Wall likely would have been a good deal better than Westbrook for the Lakers,” Quinn added. “At the very least he’s never shot 0-of-11 from the field. But he would’ve deprived them of mid-season optionality on the trade market, and he’d have posed similar, if less extreme, problems. If given the chance to go back to last February and change their minds on a proposed Wall deal, the Lakers likely say no a second time.
“Still, watching Wall thrive as a Clipper will invite second-guesses to that decision. The Lakers could have had Wall. The Clippers are extremely thankful that they don’t. In Thursday’s tight 103-97 Clippers victory, that might have been the difference.”
Now, the Westbrook dilemma remains for the Lakers with what appears to be decreasing options. General manager Rob Pelinka’s best hope is for a struggling team to make a deal ahead of the trade deadline in order to clear cap space. If the Lakers wait until then to make a move, the team’s season may already be over.