Report: Lakers, Russell Westbrook share mutual interest in him moving on this offseason
The Lakers appear ready to move on from the highly paid and disappointing guard this offseason.
Even he is apparently ready to go.
Perhaps, Westbrook has enjoyed playing at home for a season but doesn’t want to do it forever. As happy as he is personally, his professional life seems miserable.
Or maybe he just sees the writing on the wall. Westbrook reportedly requested a trade from the Rockets because he learned James Harden would do the same. Westbrook might be on board just because he believes a breakup with the Lakers is inevitable regardless
Moving Westbrook won’t necessarily be easy. Though he’ll be on an expiring contract after this season, that won’t mean much initially. Teams have bigger goals with their 2022 offseason cap flexibility.
Perhaps, a team that strikes out on other targets would trade for Westbrook next summer. But the timing would have to be just right for a team to take on Westbrook’s $47,063,478 salary.
Really, the heft of Westbrook’s salary likely won’t stop being a huge impediment until the season begins, teams fail to meet expectations and other players’ contracts sour. Even then, such a large salary could be tricky to match.
The Lakers could attach sweeteners to move Westbrook sooner. They’ll have both their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks available this summer. But Los Angeles needs to upgrade around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. If using assets to offload Westbrook, those tools can’t be used to build up the roster.
The Lakers could stretch Westbrook, clearing at least $31,375,652 from their payroll next season. That wouldn’t project to open any cap space, but it could free them to use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception rather than the taxpayer mid-level exception.
The big downside to stretching Westbrook: His contract currently ends in 2023. If stretched, he’d count against the cap up to $15,687,826 each of the next three seasons. Perhaps, Westbrook would sacrifice enough in a buyout to make stretching him worthwhile, a la Luol Deng. That seems unlikely, though.
To his credit, Westbrook still appears to be engaged with the Lakers, trying to help them win (though, as always, stubbornly on his own terms). Whatever he wants beyond this year, he’s still fulfilling his contract terms.