Here Are LA Lakers' 6 Best Options to Move Russell Westbrook
The Los Angeles Lakers have started the season...slowly. They had hoped that new head coach Darvin Ham and a younger, healthier roster would lead to a better performance than last year's 33 wins. But the results have been concerning. The team is winless in three games, poorly assembled and historically bad from three-point range (21.2 percent).
The early failings aren't entirely on Russell Westbrook, but he stands out as the obvious problem given his team-high $47.1 million price tag and how poorly he fits alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers have tried to get out of his deal since before last season's trade deadline.
With offseason deals too costly, the hope heading into the season was to evaluate progress over the first 20 games. But the losses are already mounting. Multiple executives around the league expect Los Angeles to eventually give up its 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to move Westbrook.
Is there a "Lakers tax"? Some executives believe it to be real—less because of historic rivalries but because of pressure to field a contender around James and L.A.'s recent history of questionable deals.
Will the Lakers rush into a panic trade? What kind of return would they be looking at for a deal in early to mid-November?
Buddy Hield and Myles Turner for Two Firsts
The Lakers and Indiana Pacers (1-3) have been in a staring contest for months. Pacers governor Herb Simon has long resisted tanking, but the team isn't very good. Would he be more open to accepting that path for both Lakers' firsts?
Indiana is believed to be interested in a deal. The Lakers would receive Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, potentially with Daniel Theis and/or T.J. McConnell. L.A. hasn't gotten much out of Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant (out with a thumb injury). Turner would help the Lakers defensively and allow Davis to play more power forward.
Given his questionable durability, Turner's value may not be as much as a single first. Many view Hield as more of a negative asset given his production at $39.1 million-plus over this season and next. Still, he'd help address the Lakers' biggest weakness as a high-volume three-point shooter.
Multiple Players from San Antonio (Jakob Poeltl or a Trade Exception?)
The San Antonio Spurs have enough salary-cap space to make an unbalanced trade. The Lakers and Spurs have communicated for several months about the possibility of working together on a Westbrook trade, but nothing has apparently come close to fruition.
The Lakers would take on Josh Richardson's expiring $12.2 million contract, along with the $27.5 million owed to Doug McDermott through 2023-24. L.A. might be able to get that done for a single first, but its low-leverage position may preclude reasonable protections.
If Los Angeles is more generous with its draft currency, perhaps it could get Jakob Poeltl to fill its need at center. Without him, the Lakers would receive a $21.1 million trade exception, large enough to acquire Turner in a separate deal. L.A. would still get an $11.7 million trade exception with Poeltl.
Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley from Utah
The Utah Jazz are among the best teams in the NBA record-wise, but few expect that to last. After dealing Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the offseason, the Jazz are supposed to be tanking. If they continue winning, drop them to last on this list.
But if Utah decides to focus on development, it could offer the Lakers Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley. The Lakers would probably have interest in Lauri Markkanen, Jarred Vanderbilt or Kelly Olynyk, but Utah is more likely to offer aging veterans Mike Conley and Rudy Gay.
If the Lakers can get depth out of the Jazz for a single first, perhaps that's a viable path. Unless some of Utah's younger players can be had, the potential haul shouldn't be worth multiple first-rounders.
Rozier and Hayward from Charlotte
Would Charlotte Hornets chairman Michael Jordan favor Westbrook as a Jordan Brand athlete? The Pacers and Spurs would probably try to buy Westbrook out if they traded with the Lakers, but the Hornets could be a rare team that might consider Westbrook's value as a player.
That may be a Lakers dream. Closer to reality, the Hornets aren't tanking. Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward are their top performers. Others such as Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee might also help the Lakers, but the Hornets aren't likely to rush into a move that decimates their roster.
If Charlotte embraces the Victor Wembanyama chase, then perhaps it would move Hayward, whose contract may not appeal to the Lakers. But he'd be a clear talent upgrade, along with Rozier. But that opportunity may not develop until closer to the trade deadline and may cost the Lakers both first-rounders.
Kyrie Irving (Sooner or Later)
The Lakers were interested in acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets and would do so if he became available again. So far, the Nets (1-2) have survived the offseason turmoil of Kevin Durant's trade demand. But L.A. certainly has an eye or two on that situation.
If the franchises want to help each other out of disappointing situations, perhaps there's a deal to be made. But that may not be likely until closer to the deadline. Irving will certainly stand atop the Lakers' free-agent wish list if a trade isn't in the cards.
The Lakers may have $31-35 million in cap space, but that won't be enough to max out Irving next season. It might, however, be enough if Irving's market is soft given his mercurial personality. The Irving possibility may lead L.A. to spurn some of the proposals listed above, unless they're for expiring contracts. That would mean no Hayward, Rozier or Hield if the Lakers identify Irving in free agency as the priority.
Whether they should is a different story. But that's the theme for all these potential targets. The Lakers are likely choosing from a list of questionable options.
Would Waiting Be Best?
The Lakers may find a deal that improves their roster from bad to mediocre or even good. But how many realistic trades would make them great? Would any move that doesn't result in the Lakers joining the elite be worthwhile?
On the other hand, any team with James and Davis shouldn't be that far from contention—except for this squad and last year's. The Lakers may be in a poor position in October and November, but rushing to get a deal done may cause more long-term issues. What would be the point if they sacrificed two first-round picks and didn't become a significant force in the Western Conference?
If the Lakers can hold out until December and January, opportunities might increase as recently signed free agents become eligible for trades. Waiting may be best, though the season could be all but over if the Lakers fall too far out of contention.
Additionally, if the Lakers make a two-, three- or four-for-one trade, others on the roster beyond Westbrook would need to go. The only trade-eligible players on regular contracts include Davis, Patrick Beverley, Austin Reaves, Wenyen Gabriel, Max Christie and Kendrick Nunn. Others can be cut outright to make roster space, such as Matt Ryan, whose salary is non-guaranteed.
Finally, in any of the deals, the Lakers might want to try to rope in the Phoenix Suns in a multiteam swap to add Jae Crowder, who is away from the team, hoping for a trade.