Russell Westbrook Trade Rumors: Lakers Tuning out Skeptics and Insist They'll Keep PG

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 30, 2022

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 5: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on April 5, 2022 at Footprint Center 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly plan to keep veteran guard Russell Westbrook next season.

According to NBA insider Marc Stein (h/t HoopsHype), the Lakers are "tuning out the skeptics" and telling "anyone who will listen" that they won't give up additional assets to trade Westbrook or eat his salary by releasing him.

The expectation is that Westbrook will exercise the $47 million player option in his contract to remain with the Lakers next season before becoming a free agent in 2023.

L.A. acquired Westbrook from the Washington Wizards during the offseason as part of a trade that sent Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to D.C.

The hope was that Westbrook would be the third star the Lakers needed alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but it didn't work out that way, as Los Angeles went a disappointing 33-49 and missed the playoffs just two years after winning a championship.

While James and Davis missed significant time because of injury, Westbrook's middling play didn't help matters.

Much was expected of the nine-time All-Star, one-time MVP and future Hall of Famer, but he ended up averaging just 18.5 points per game, his lowest scoring output since his second season in 2009-10.

Westbrook's 7.4 rebounds per game were his fewest since 2014-15, and with just 7.1 assists per game, it marked only the second time in seven seasons that he averaged fewer than 10 assists per contest.

Westbrook also shot just 44.4 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from beyond the arc, plus he turned the ball over 3.8 times per game.

His performance this season was a far cry from what he did in his only season with the Wizards when he averaged a triple-double with 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and an NBA-leading 11.7 assists per game, marking the fourth time in five seasons he averaged a triple-double.

It's possible things could be different for Westbrook next season if James and Davis stay healthy, but there isn't a ton of optimism among pundits that the Lakers will be able to contend for a championship with Westbrook as a key player on the roster.

The big issue is that LeBron, AD and Westbrook occupy so much salary-cap space that there isn't much the Lakers can do in making splashy offseason moves if all three remain on the payroll.

If the Lakers are unwilling to part with other assets to offload Westbrook, then it's difficult to envision him playing for any other team next season.