The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly not ruled out using the stretch provision and waiving Russell Westbrook this offseason if they fail to find a trade partner.
Marc Stein reported the Lakers could use some of those savings—Westbook would cost about $15.7 million over the next three seasons if stretched—to retain Malik Monk, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
The Westbrook experiment went bust with the Lakers in 2021-22 and is arguably the single biggest reason they've been eliminated from playoff contention. The 2017 MVP was the most consistently healthy Laker but also the most derided, failing to mesh on the floor with LeBron James and seemingly losing his confidence as the season progressed.
Westbrook is averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game, solid counting stats that ultimately overrate what's been an empty season. Defenses consistently showed him no respect when he was off the ball—which was often the case when he shared the floor with James—and he deflected blame during periods of criticism.
The Lakers almost have to trade Westbrook at this point; the fanbase turned on him months ago, and he's an albatross eating up more than a third of the team's cap.
That said, the idea of stretching him doesn't really solve anything. Monk far outplayed his minimum contract this season, but he's not a future All-Star. Eating $15.7 million in dead-cap space to retain a player who doesn't move the needle toward championship contention, without also adding talent elsewhere, seems like a mismanagement of funds.
The reality of the situation is that the Lakers are going to have to attach draft picks—yes, plural–for a team to take on Westbrook and send back usable veteran role players who work next to James and Anthony Davis.
The stretch provision would save Lakers management some coin but do nothing to help the actual basketball team. That's probably a nonstarter for LeBron and AD.