The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a rocky start in 2022, to say the least. After back-to-back wins over the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans last week, it seemed that L.A. could be on the verge of turning things around. However, lopsided losses to the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers over the weekend have dropped the Lakers to 2-7.
The question of whether L.A. will trade Russell Westbrook this season hangs over the Lakers still, and another star could enter the trade picture as well. According to The Ringer's Bill Simmons, the Lakers could look to deal Anthony Davis if the season continues to go south.
The fact that trading Westbrook would likely require parting with future draft capital would play a role in that decision. Simmons said the following on the latest episode of his podcast.
"There's some buzz, some buzzing that A.D. might be available. That that's a Plan B because the Westbrook trade or whatever they think they can get for Westbrook and whether you want to give up future assets, maybe that doesn't even make sense, because what are you getting if you're the Lakers?"
In many ways, trading Westbrook along with draft capital wouldn't make sense. If L.A. is on the verge of a rebuild, its draft picks would be more valuable than clearing Westbrook's salary for the rest of the season.
Could the Lakers land a couple of players who would better complement Davis and LeBron James in a Westbrook deal? Perhaps, but Westbrook has played well since head coach Darvin Ham began utilizing him as a sixth man.
The 33-year-old struggled as a starter over the first three games. Since coming off of the bench in Game 5, however, he's been a reliable contributor. In his last five games, Westbrook has shot 50 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three-point range. He's averaging 15.6 points per game despite averaging just over 10 as a starter.
Ham has a plan for Westbrook, and it appears to be working.
"One of my goals, and selfishly, is to get him in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year at some point. And why not start now?" Ham said, per The Athletic's Jovan Buha.
Westbrook's newfound spark is part of the reason why trading Davis wouldn't make a ton of sense right now either. Davis hasn't played like a superstar since the start of last season, but he's also been injury-hampered.
Davis is dealing with a back injury, while James (foot) is less than 100 percent as well. If L.A.'s two biggest stars can get healthy, this squad—which should eventually get Dennis Schroder back from his thumb injury—may still be able to make a run in a surprisingly not-great Western Conference.
The Lakers are just 2.5 games behind the crosstown Clippers, who hold the No. 8 seed in the West.
Suppose the Lakers can't get back into the playoff mix. Perhaps Westbrook's revival is a mirage. Maybe Davis never gets and stays healthy this season. Maybe the 37-year-old James has finally started to decline. If all of that is true, then a full-on rebuild would make sense for the Lakers, but blowing things up now wouldn't.
One thing the Lakers have to find out this season is whether Ham is the right coach for the long term. He's doing good work with Westbrook, and he deserves a chance to navigate the team's early struggles. If the Lakers give up on the season now, they won't have a good idea of whether Ham is capable of success or even overseeing a rebuild.
Would L.A. want to blow up its roster and search for another new head coach in the same offseason? Not if they can avoid it. The Lakers need to see if Ham can pull the team out of its current mess, and that means keeping the roster intact for now.
The last thing to consider here is Davis' trade value. He's a 29-year-old big who isn't healthy. While he'd still bring an enticing trade package to L.A., he'd be even more valuable if he is healthy and playing at a high level. That's unlikely to happen until later in the season, if at all.
A team looking to acquire Davis now would be looking to buy low.
While it may be fun to think about the Lakers folding (some fans will never like L.A.) or Davis landing with a clearer contender, don't expect it to happen any time soon. There may come a point where trading Davis makes sense, but that point won't come until we're closer to the February 9 trade deadline.