Latest NBA Trade Intel: Would a John Wall-Westbrook Trade Really Help Lakers?January 24, 2022
Can or should the Los Angeles Lakers get rid of Russell Westbrook?
The Lakers (23-24) hope to have Anthony Davis return from a knee injury shortly. Frank Vogel is still the head coach despite rumors that his job is in jeopardy.
And while the likelihood of a significant trade to get the team on track is low, the franchise is hopeful that minor moves, coupled with Davis' return, will spark a strong second half to the season. That said, the franchise has explored the market for Westbrook.
The inescapable hurdle appears to be the $47.1 million he is owed for 2022-23 (assuming, as teams do, that he will opt in). But as NBA insider Marc Stein recently wrote "the Rockets—while indeed holding no interest in having Westbrook play for them again—actually would be amenable to another Westbrook-for-Wall swap if the Lakers incentivized the trade with sufficient draft compensation."
Is Wall, who is healthy but hasn't played this season, an upgrade for the Lakers over Westbrook? Is the situation so toxic in L.A. that Westbrook has to go? So bad that they would even give up draft considerations?
No. None of that sounds accurate. To be kind, the Lakers are a bit of a mess this year, but the franchise doesn't appear to be that desperate. That said, if the team were willing to add payroll to an already significant luxury tax bill, then a Westbrook deal could allow the Lakers to add additional depth beyond Wall via trade.
By trading away Westbrook's $44.2 million salary, the Lakers could bring back players earning up to $55.4 million. If L.A. includes Kendrick Nunn (out with a knee injury) and a couple of minimum-salaried players like DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore, that number climbs to $65.8 million. Include third-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker and veteran Wayne Ellington, and Los Angeles can take in up to $79.7 million.
That could enable the team to bring back players like Eric Gordon and two of Daniel Theis, D.J. Augustin and David Nwaba—provided the Rockets were willing. Alternatively, both teams could work together to field a multiteam deal if the listed names don't move the needle (or for roster space for some of the extra players the Lakers might need to send out).
Would Westbrook, Horton-Tucker and Nunn work for Wall, Gordon and Augustin? Does that improve the Lakers' chances at winning this season? And would Los Angeles be willing to increase its payroll by about $12 million, with an additional luxury-tax penalty near $33 million?
The answers are subjective, but Augustin at $7 million is probably too expensive for the Lakers. Pull him out, and the Lakers are only facing a tax increase of about $13.1 million.
The fundamental questions remain. Do the Lakers need to get rid of Westbrook? If so, are they willing to take on additional players and taxes to make acquiring Wall a worthwhile endeavor? Can the Lakers and Rockets drum up a multiteam blockbuster that is mutually beneficial?
Bringing it back to reality, a minor trade with Houston built around Horton-Tucker, Nunn and Gordon feels far more likely.
Simmons, Harris Too Expensive
Despite interest from teams like the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers are holding on to Ben Simmons.
The franchise may wait until the fates of players like Damian Lillard, James Harden and Bradley Beal are locked in cement. The Portland Trail Blazers may extend Lillard this coming offseason. Both Harden and Beal have player options with teams that are eager to bring them back. The Oklahoma City Thunder have shown no inclination to trade Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The Sixers will hold out until those decisions are made clear, barring an offer they love. That said, Philadelphia has shown a willingness to move Tobias Harris' $112.9 million contract before the deadline, along with Simmons, for a lesser return (relatively speaking). That's a hefty price for any team willing to add Simmons' $146.7 million deal.
Competing executives still think the Kings would move De'Aaron Fox for Simmons, but the prospect of moving Fox and taking in Harris is a nonstarter. Similarly, the Hawks considered the notion, but they have been notably tax-averse. Paying Trae Young, Clint Capela, Simmons, Harris and whoever they can keep out of Philadelphia's clutches may be prohibitive. Taking on Simmons alone likely requires Atlanta to move John Collins just to stay out of the tax next season. Harris is just too much for the Hawks to consider.
Many believe the Kings are still the front-runner for Simmons, though any deal could come down to the wire. Sacramento's lone keeper is believed to be Tyrese Haliburton, though it would take a significant bounty for the Kings to give up on Fox. Sacramento won't pay Fox, Simmons and Harris but isn't likely to part with Fox if Harris is in tow with Simmons.
Grant and the Wizards?
The Wizards may have too much depth on their roster, especially with Rui Hachimura (personal) and Thomas Bryant (knee) back playing. Washington hasn't exactly flourished after a fast start and is looking to consolidate talent to give Beal a greater incentive to stay long-term.
Several competing executives believe the Wizards are leading the chase for Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons, who soon could be back from his thumb injury. Grant left the Denver Nuggets to take on a more significant role as an offensive player in Detroit. He's also thought to want a lucrative long-term extension before the end of next season.
Some also say the Wizards are open to dealing veteran point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who hasn't quite meshed with Beal. The Pistons might have interest in players like Deni Avdija, Montrezl Harrell and Hachimura. Detroit could also be looking for a new home for Kelly Olynyk.
One dark-horse team mentioned as being interested in Grant was the Dallas Mavericks, with Dorian Finney-Smith and probably Dwight Powell as the primary pieces. The Mavericks have also been linked to Collins in Atlanta and Marcus Smart in Boston.
LeVert, Turner and Fox Notes
Buzz that Caris LeVert could end up as a Cleveland Cavalier has increased recently. If so, injured guard Ricky Rubio (knee) and his expiring contract could be headed to the Indiana Pacers along with other considerations. It's unclear whether the Pacers covet Collin Sexton, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Sexton will be restricted this summer in a market wherein few teams will have significant spending power.
Indiana saw several teams (such as the Mavericks) back off Turner after his foot injury. That could give the Charlotte Hornets an easier path to the Pacers center. The Hornets could try to build a package around veteran Gordon Hayward, who is believed to still favor Indiana (where he played for the Butler Bulldogs), or P.J. Washington and Mason Plumlee. Jeremy Lamb could be in the deal to Charlotte for Hayward. Whatever the decision, the Hornets have exceeded expectations this season and can afford to be patient.
Finally, if the Kings are looking to move Fox for an All-Star, the Pacers might be able to get there with an offer including Domantas Sabonis.
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter, @EricPincus.