The Los Angeles Lakers' rebuilding efforts could be on the verge of a major breakthrough as rumors surrounding the future of superstar point guard Russell Westbrook continue to intensify. He's exactly the type of player the franchise needs to jump-start its climb back up the standings.
That said, there are likely more moves on the horizon for the Lakers during the offseason, regardless of whether or not they land a new cornerstone following the retirement of Kobe Bryant. The other possible changes would be of the far less impactful variety, though.
So let's check out some of the latest buzz surrounding the Lakers. If nothing else, it should be an interesting couple of weeks for a fanbase eager to get back on a winning track.
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Westbrook's future has become a hot-button topic ever since his longtime Oklahoma City Thunder running mate, Kevin Durant, announced he was joining the rival Golden State Warriors. Now the pressure is on OKC to convince the guard, a potential free agent after next season, to stay.
So far, it sounds like those efforts are falling short. Bleacher Report's Howard Beck reported a blockbuster trade involving one of the league's most dynamic offensive weapons could end up happening "sooner rather than later," with the Boston Celtics emerging as the top candidate.
The Lakers have been heavily linked to him, as well. Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript noted there's "growing speculation" around the NBA that Westbrook will eventually land in L.A. If it doesn't happen via trade, other teams are "convinced" it will happen in free agency.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports listed the Lakers as the "most logical destination" for the point guard based on the young talent on the roster. Meanwhile, Zach Lowe of ESPN noted the Lakers would be taking a risk if they try waiting until he hits the open market unless they are positive he's signing with them.
Ultimately, there's a lot of smoke concerning a possible Westbrook trade—but no fire quite yet. Trying to accelerate the rebuilding process is preferred because there's no guarantee they'll get another chance to acquire a player of his caliber either through the draft or free agency.
The question is whether OKC is willing to trade him without getting a player like recent No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram in return. The answer at this stage might be no, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the situation stretch toward the trade deadline, when the Thunder could feel more urgency to move him.
Nick Young's Future Uncertain
Nick Young played his smallest role since 2007-08 when he was a rookie with the Washington Wizards last season with the Lakers. He played just 19.1 minutes per contest, averaging 7.3 points while shooting 33.9 percent from the field across 54 games.
In turn, it's no surprise his name has popped up as a possible subtraction. In terms of the swingman's future, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reported "it will be a surprise if he's not traded or waived before training camp."
It's not the first time the Lakers have tried to offload him, though. They tried in vain to move him each of the past two years with no takers emerging, according to Bresnahan. It's hard to imagine that stance of not giving up any assets to get him will change around the league.
Los Angeles is best off simply cutting ties with Young if a trade doesn't materialize in the coming weeks. Not only has his production dropped despite a rebuilding roster where he should have forced his way into a key role, but it's not worth putting up with his off-court drama for a small on-court impact.
Moe Harkless Still Seeking Best Option
Moe Harkless is still just 23 despite already spending four years in the NBA. His averages with the Portland Trail Blazers last season were nothing special (6.4 points and 3.6 rebounds), but there's still some untapped potential if he can find the right situation.
He's a restricted free agent, so the Blazers will have the right to match any offer, and there hasn't been a ton of movement since free agency started. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders noted right before the market opened that several teams, including the Lakers, were interested:
Alex Kennedy @AlexKennedyNBA
The Pistons, Wizards, Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks are among the teams interested in restricted free agent Moe Harkless, per sources.2016-7-1 00:21:58
Jason Quick of CSNNW.com noted over the weekend the forward's agent stated there's "no rush" to figure out the contract situation. The agent also noted it's possible they could take the one-year qualifying offer, leaving the door open to hit the market again next summer.
He'd make a nice depth addition for the Lakers right now, though. The team could use some more forward depth, and signing him this summer—rather than possibly waiting until next year—would allow him to learn new head coach Luke Walton's system right along with everybody else.