The Russell Westbrook era with the Los Angeles Lakers has gotten off to a rocky start prompting some fans to push for the star point guard to be traded. The good news is the Lakers have had limited time with their three stars sharing the floor together giving some hope that things will improve as the season progresses.
The Lakers are preaching patience, but Sports Illustrated’s Alex Kirschenbaum put together five potential trades featuring Westbrook. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka faces an uphill battle to find a deal for Westbrook given his $44 million salary, so Los Angeles is most likely going to be forced to find a way to make the superstar work within their current roster.
That said, one of the proposals has the Lakers landing three key players from the Spurs, including two starters. The Lakers get Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Thaddeus Young in exchange for Westbrook in the hypothetical proposal.
“In Murray, the Lakers could add a young, defensive-oriented combo guard who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective, plus a savvy, versatile veteran front court piece in Young with above-average passing acumen who could fit in perfectly alongside James and Davis,” Kirschenbaum explained. “White would help replace the loss of Westbrook’s offensive output.
“The Spurs get an (aging) star in Westbrook that at least will make them a fun playoff team again, albeit a 45-win first round exit.”
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Murray Is Having a Career Year With the Spurs
Murray is having a stellar start to the season and is on pace to post career highs in nearly every major statistical category. The Spurs point guard is averaging 18.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists and two steals through his first 15 games. San Antonio is likely to be reluctant to deal what could become one of the cornerstones on the young roster. Murray’s biggest weakness is his shooting as the guard is just 31% from long range this season.
“A big caveat to this, from San Antonio’s perspective: the team is just coming out of an era where it featured two older former All-Stars and sniffed the playoffs a handful of times,” Kirschenbaum added. “With the club now focused solely on developing its youth, offloading two of their prized young guards in Murray and White, whose ceilings remain something of a mystery (though they may not sniff All-Star status), for Westbrook may not interest the Spurs. The Lakers would most likely want to throw in at least one of their minimum salaries in this deal.”
By comparison, Murray is on a much more reasonable deal than Westbrook, especially considering the point guard is just 25 years old. Murray is in the second season of a four-year, $64 million contract and a $15.4 million salary for the 2021-22 season, per Spotrac.
The Lakers Are Going to Find It Hard to Deal Westbrook
This is the kind of deal where the Lakers admit that star power is not necessarily better than having depth. The Lakers sent the Wizards Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell as part of the deal for Westbrook.
The Spurs proposal lands the Lakers two other key players in addition to Murray. White has been a starter for the Spurs averaging 10.9 points, 5.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds this season. The guard is having a down shooting year at just 29.9% from behind the three-point line so far this season but is a 35.1% career shooter from long range.
Young is a journeyman forward who has been a key contributor everywhere he has played. The veteran has averaged 13 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.4 steals while shooting 33.1% from the three-point line over his career.
The question is why the Spurs would want to swap these players for Westbrook. As Lakers Nation’s Trevor Lane noted, Pelinka is going to find it difficult to secure a deal for Westbrook that makes sense.
“There is no quick, magic fix for the Lakers. For the ‘trade Russ’ crowd, where?” Lane tweeted on November 20. “For what? Lakers have the team they have. The fix is unlikely to come via trade, though perhaps we see some minor moves. Improvement will have to come from within.”