Proposed Blockbuster Trade Sends Lakers an $81 Million All-Star

Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Rob Pelinka of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers are likely going to start the season with Russell Westbrook on the roster, but the team is expected to continue to explore potential trades as February 9, 2023 deadline nears. During a September 28 episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast” with ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, The Ringer analyst noted that Westbrook could have value as an expiring contract as the season goes on.

Simmons mentioned the Bulls in a hypothetical mid-season trade scenario where a team potentially underperforms and is willing to take on Westbrook in an effort to clear cap space for the future. The Lakers would likely have an interest in DeMar DeRozan, a player the team flirted with during the 2021 free agency. The bigger question is whether Chicago would be willing to tear down what emerged as a promising team last season.

“So, the Bulls are like, ‘Oh my God, we’re a fringe playoff team,” Simmons explained. “What are we doing? Maybe we just cash in [on] DeRozan and some other stuff and we’ll take that Westbrook [contract]. We’ll grab some picks. We can use those picks to trade this summer, and we’ll reboot.'”

Windhorst: ‘Westbrook Is a Very Valuable Expiring Contract’

Windhorst added that Westbrook’s massive $47 million salary could increase in value as the season goes on as it allows a team considering a rebuild to create a sizable amount of cap space heading into next offseason. Both analysts agreed that the Nets still loom as potential trade partner if the team’s relationship with Kyrie Irving once again goes south.

“Ultimately, Westbrook is a very valuable expiring contract,” Windhorst responded. “It’s a huge number. You don’t come across those type of expiring contracts. Today, in September, I’m looking at the Bulls after seeing this Lonzo [Ball] interview going, ‘Boy, I don’t know what’s going to happen with them.’ But three weeks from now, it could be another team that I didn’t foresee.”

What Would a DeRozan Trade Look Like for the Lakers?

The irony is that the Lakers lost their chance to land DeRozan when the team opted to trade for Westbrook last summer. Any trade for DeRozan likely starts with the Lakers including two future first round picks. According to Spotrac, the Bulls are projected to have an estimated $20.4 million in cap space next offseason, a number that would grow if the team moves DeRozan’s $81.9 million contract.

Yet, the reality is DeRozan’s 28.6 million salary for 2023-24 is more than reasonable by NBA standards. DeRozan is coming off arguably his best season averaging a career-high 27.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 35.2% from long range.

The guard’s performance was good enough to earn his fifth All-Star appearance and be in the conversation as a sleeper MVP candidates. DeRozan admitted he thought joining the Lakers was a “done deal” in 2021.

“I felt like going to the Lakers was a done deal and that we were going to figure it out. I was going to come home,” DeRozan told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes during a November 16, 2021 interview. “The business side of things just didn’t work out. A couple of things didn’t align. It didn’t work out. It’s just part of the business, part of the game. My next option was definitely Chicago. So, looking back at it, it worked out well.