Russell Westbrook Trade Rumors: 'A Segment' in Lakers Believe They Can Figure Out PG

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVMay 29, 2022

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 05: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on April 05, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, 
by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook's first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was a disaster, and the wide belief has been that the team would have to move on from the veteran point guard if it wants to return to contention. 

But not everyone in the Lakers organization reportedly agrees, as The Athletic's Jovan Buha reported on Friday's The Forum Club podcast (h/t HoopsHype):

"I think everyone knows they kind of have to trade Westbrook, that is partially why they are now entertaining keeping him. I do think, from what I've heard, there's a segment within the franchise that does believe Russ could be utilized better, that this could work that they could, you know, with the right head coach with the right supporting cast, they can figure that out."

Westbrook, 33, had one of his worst professional seasons for the Lakers in the 2021-22 campaign, averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists while shooting 44.4 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from three and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line. 

His points were his lowest mark since the 2009-10 season, his second in the league, and his rebounds the lowest since 2014-15.

When Westbrook was on the court, the Lakers were outscored by 4.0 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. When he sat, that number improved to only being outscored by 1.6 points.

Trading for him didn't work, in other words, and that was compounded by injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Westbrook's poor play, combined with those injuries and a poorly constructed roster around the stars, resulted in a disastrous 33-49 season. 

The issue for the Lakers is that ditching Westbrook is going to be expensive, if downright impossible, given the $47 million player option he'll assuredly exercise. 

Any team with salary-cap space willing to take on that amount of salary is going to demand serious draft capital. The Lakers could use the waive-and-stretch provision, cutting Westbrook while stretching his salary over three seasons, but that will still cost them $15.6 million over those three years—the equivalent of signing a good starting role player.

So the Lakers may indeed be resigned to the fate of trying to make it work with Westbrook, despite the disaster that was the last season. It will be a major task for new head coach Darvin Ham.