Exactly one month ago, sports media takesmith and professional LeBron James stalker Skip Bayless had an important question about James, his Lakers co-star Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Westbrook’s wife that he wanted to get to the bottom of:
Why are LeBron and AD following Russell Westbrook’s wife on Instagram??? Now on @undisputed— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 21, 2021
Well, in much the same way that a broken clock is right twice a day, it turns out ol’ Skip was on to something — maybe — as according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, the Lakers are actually looking at Westbrook as a trade option this summer:
There have also been talks about Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook being a potential candidate to move back home to Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade deal that could include free agent point guard Dennis Schroder, forward Kyle Kuzma and guard Talen Horton-Tucker, sources said.
Between this and their rumored interest in Chris Paul, one thing is clear: The reports that the Lakers are looking for another playmaker to ease the burden of James and Davis on that front were accurate. And it’s additionally clear that they’re aiming high, a lot higher than giving $100ish million to Dennis Schröder after a poor postseason showing.
Now, actually making that proposed trade work would be difficult, as it would require...
- Schröder wanting to go to Washington
- Washington wanting to pay Schröder a contract he likes
- Washington wanting Talen Horton-Tucker (and his next contract) and Kyle Kuzma
- Horton-Tucker wanting to go to Washington
- Washington being willing to give up Russell Westbrook for the privilege of adding those three players
- Bradley Beal not instantly demanding a trade if that happened
- Okay so maybe that last one isn’t strictly required, but you get the idea
The thing is, that’s just a lot of variables, and would still require the first years of both Schröder and Horton-Tucker’s signed-and-traded contracts PLUS Kuzma’s $13 million annual salary to match the $44 million that Westbrook is owed next year, or his salary plus whichever other player(s) the Wizards would include.
If that all sounds very complicated, that’s because it is. But there are a couple of interesting things about these reports, even if either Paul or Westbrook wearing purple and gold next year still feels unlikely.
For one thing, as mentioned above, the Lakers clearly want another playmaker alongside James and Davis, and they want to add one of the best in the league. For as expensive and Paul and Westbrook are, they still fit that bill. And it also feels notable that we have heard very few (if any) reports of the Lakers wanting to make it work with Schröder since the season ended, and far more about them looking at various sign-and-trade options for him. The writing seems to be on the wall, now it’s just a matter of whether or not they can get someone back for him.
As far as Westbrook specifically, this will obviously be a polarizing rumor. It is interesting and potentially informative, though, that for all of the ink spilled on how the Lakers need more shooting, considering Westbrook would seem to indicate pretty clearly that the team does not see their playoff clanks as negatively as many on the outside do. Because adding Westbrook would not really enhance the Lakers’ perimeter shooting in any way, but it would be doubling down on the bigger, stronger, faster identity that the team cultivated on their run to the 2020 championship.
Bench units with Westbrook would wreck opponents to a far greater degree than the LeBron-less groups of the last three years have been able to. His presence in closing lineups might gum up the floor more for James and Davis in the halfcourt, but his rebounding and transcendent ability to ignite the break as a guard would help the team get back out in transition to better leverage their superior speed, strength and athleticism.
As long as head coach Frank Vogel could find a way to utilize Westbrook defensively, then this would be a fascinating test of what seems to be general manager Rob Pelinka’s overarching basketball philosophy, pushing the idea of adding athletes who are average-to-below-average shooters to its natural limit, trying to completely out-physical teams to a second title in three years.
Again, will this actually happen? Maybe not. But the leaks about the Lakers don’t seem to be indicating that they want to run it back. They want to go big or go home, and try to run the league over in the process.
What does Westbrook’s wife’s Instagram have to do with all that? I’m still not sure. We’ll have to check back with Skip on that important investigation later.