Rumors connecting the Los Angeles Lakers to potential trades for Russell Westbrook have been the talk of the NBA ahead of the February 10 deadline. The latest update from NBA insider Marc Stein comes with a twist.
Stein reported on January 21 that the Rockets are likely the one team willing to take on Westbrook’s bloated contract. Like so many other NBA scribes, Stein floated the idea of a Westbrook for John Wall swap as the Lakers-Rockets would potentially swap bloated $40 million-plus salaries in hopes of somehow fixing their own problems.
Stein provided a new update adding that the Rockets have no desire to actually retain Westbrook on the roster if this deal played out. Instead, Houston would “swiftly enter buyout talks” with Westbrook, potentially making the nine-time All-Star a free agent after the hypothetical deal was completed.
“I included a line in there about how the Rockets have zero interest in Westbrook actually playing for them again, but I didn’t properly expound on the buyout that would be required after such a trade,” Stein detailed on January 24. “Westbrook is owed $47 million next season. If the Lakers actually reached the point that they were willing to send their 2027 first-round pick to the Rockets to convince them to ship out John Wall and take Westbrook back, it is expected that Westbrook and Houston would swiftly enter buyout talks.
“Buyout discussions with a player owed more than $50 million are never easy, but it is believed Houston would happily cope with that challenge if it could get the future first-rounder from the Lakers. Reason being: The Rockets, remember, are already facing the same conundrum. Wall is owed $47.4 million next season and hasn’t logged one minute this season after he balked at the limited role Houston offered him.”
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Why Would the Rockets Trade for Westbrook With No Plans to Keep the Star Guard?
All this leads to the obvious question, why would the Rockets trade for Westbrook with immediate plans to make him a free agent via a buyout? The Rockets are already in a similar situation with Wall who has yet to suit up for a game this season as the team looks for a trade partner. The answer is the Rockets want a first-round pick from the Lakers, and the 2027 edition is the soonest that general manager Rob Pelinka could send one their way.
“Given that Wall is realistically no easier for the Rockets to trade than Westbrook is for the Lakers, Houston figures to face the same daunting buyout issues in trying to remove Wall from its roster in the offseason — with or without a Russ reunion,” Stein added.
“As covered Friday, I don’t think that the Lakers are prepared to give up their 2027 first just to swap Westbrook for Wall before the Feb. 10 trade buzzer without giving Russ at least one full season in Lakerland to try to make the experiment work. Yet I also don’t see the Rockets letting buyout fears stand in their way should the Lakers surprise us and abruptly make their best trade asset available.”
The Lakers Trading Away Their 2027 First-Round Pick Is Risky Business
If the Lakers opt to make this deal, it is dangerous for two key reasons with the most pressing problem being there is no guarantee Wall suddenly solves the Lakers’ problems. Secondly, this 2027 pick could very well be in the post-LeBron era, meaning the Rockets would be landing a selection with lottery potential.
Picks aside, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor believes there is some smoke to the Westbrook-Wall rumors. O’Connor urged the Lakers consider making the move (if it is indeed on the table) as it would “put LeBron in the best position to win.”
“The Lakers should also have reliable intel about Wall’s condition, considering their relationship with Klutch Sports, the agency that represents Wall and the team’s two biggest stars: LeBron James and Anthony Davis,” O’Connor noted on January 24. “Klutch and the Lakers have an aligned interest: Put LeBron in the best position to win. And Klutch must put Wall in the best situation to resurrect his career. In theory, Rich Paul and Pelinka can be totally honest with each other about Wall’s fit with the Lakers.