Lakers Rumors: Russell Westbrook Trade Won't Be Forced at the Expense of Assets

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 10, 2022

EL SEGUNDO, CA - JUNE 06: Los Angeles Lakers Russell Westbrook smiles during the Darvin Hams introductory press conference on June 06, 2022, at the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have made it known around the NBA that they don't want to "force" a Russell Westbrook trade that "costs them additional assets," according to NBA reporter Marc Stein.

Stein also reported that a Westbrook-for-John-Wall trade is unlikely:

"Regarding the long-running idea that Westbrook could be swapped again for Houston's Wall, since both would be making near-identical $47 million salaries next season, one source briefed on the situation told me this week that Houston's interest has always been predicated on the Lakers including draft compensation to sweeten the deal, which L.A. steadfastly refuses to do."

That makes it likely that Westbrook will be a Laker come the start of the 2022-23 season.

He has until June 29 to decide if he'll exercise or decline his $47 million player option, and unsurprisingly, he reportedly is expected to do the former.

"Westbrook can opt into the final year of his contract at $47 million. He's expected to do that at the end of the month," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on NBA Countdown Friday (0:50 mark). "But [he's] really enthusiastic about getting to know [new Lakers head coach] Darvin Ham so far and expects to talk with him a lot more about his role, how he fits into it, as they move through the summer toward training camp."

While Westbrook had a poor first season with the Lakers by his standards—he averaged just 18.5 points, 7.4 boards and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from three and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe—giving away nearly $50 million to find a better situation always felt unlikely, especially since Westbrook wouldn't get anywhere close to that figure as a free agent at this stage in his career.

Westbrook undoubtedly became one of the scapegoats of the team's disappointing 33-49 campaign, fitting poorly alongside stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis while having some truly perplexing moments.

Frank Vogel was made the ultimate scapegoat, as he was fired and replaced by Ham. While he didn't get the most out of last year's group, reprioritizing role players who defend and shoot from the perimeter should be the goal for the front office this offseason after last year's roster was constructed poorly around the skill sets of James and Davis.

That included the addition of Westbrook, who likely would be traded if moving his contract was feasible. But very few teams could find a way to absorb his cap hit, and all would likely demand assets in return that the Lakers, per Stein, aren't inclined to give away.

In summary: Westbrook is going to keep his $47 million and the Lakers are going to keep the few tradable future assets they have. For better or worse, this marriage appears very likely to continue for one more season.