NBA

Lakers have no intention of giving up first-round pick to trade Russell Westbrook, per report

A year ago, the Los Angeles Lakers wanted Russell Westbrook badly enough to give up a first-round pick and several rotation players to land him in a draft-day deal with the Washington Wizards. Since then, his value has plummeted. He had a disastrous debut season in Los Angeles punctuated by an exit interview lacking in any shred of self-awareness. Westbrook just had the worst season of his career and refused to accept an ounce of blame for it. Now, he’s the sort of player who a team should have to give up draft picks just to get rid of.

But the Lakers appear unwilling to do so. According to The Athletic, they have “no intention” of including a first-round pick in a deal just to dump Westbrook. What exactly that means is unclear. If they are unwilling to include a pick in a deal that would purely dump Westbrook, that might be a defensible position. Getting rid of Westbrook would only be one small step toward fixing what went wrong last season. If the Lakers are truly unwilling to surrender a first-round pick in any Westbrook deal, though, including ones in which they get back players who could help them win next season, then they are going to find it almost impossible to trade Westbrook.

Westbrook has a $47.1 million player option for next season that he is expected to pick up. That option would make him one of the highest-paid players in basketball, but with only a single season remaining on the deal, it’s not an especially destructive deal over the long haul. In theory, there should be teams that are willing to trade longer contracts for Westbrook purely for the sake of long-term savings. 

However, according to Jovan Buha, “teams have been demanding the inclusion of at least one first-round pick to take on Westbrook’s massive expiring contract, according to league sources. Rival teams know how much of a public trainwreck last season was for the Lakers, and they’re not looking to do Los Angeles any favors by helping them off of Westbrook’s contract.”

The Lakers reportedly spoke to the Houston Rockets about a potential swap involving John Wall before the trade deadline, though it does not appear as though a deal ever came close. Who might be interested at this point is less clear, but there are always teams willing to absorb bad contracts for draft picks, and there are typically teams eager to shed longer-team deals even when they come attached to good players.

Good players are something the Lakers lack right now. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are superstars, but the Lakers gave away virtually their entire supporting cast to land Westbrook last offseason. Now that he’s failed, their only chance at re-entering the championship picture will involve turning him into the sort of talent they got rid of last offseason. If they are unwilling to attach draft picks, they’re going to have a very hard time doing that.



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