Look, a Russell Westbrook trade is so unlikely that, for a variety reasons, we can likely just preface all this right now by declaring that the Lakers aren’t going to make one. Or at least not during the season.
My colleague Jacob Rude already broke down all the reasons why a Russ trade is almost certainly not going to happen, from his massive salary, to his declining production, how much of a stylistic shift it would require from the Lakers (and whatever team took him on) at midstream, and more. Westbrook also, quite simply, hasn’t been as bad as some of his loudest detractors would have you believe, even if he’s also been far from a perfect fit. The Lakers don’t need to just dump him. They’d want someone better back.
But still: That’s not going to stop the rumors. However, even if the Lakers did want to deal Westbrook and try something new, the reality is that it just might not be possible. The Sixers reportedly aren’t interested in taking back Westbrook in a Ben Simmons trade, unwilling to even take him on for a player who is literally giving them nothing this season, removing one of the few potential destinations that at least makes a small degree of sense.
So while there have been multiple reports that Rob Pelinka and the front office have discussed dealing Westbrook, there just isn’t a lot of reason to believe that there are teams lining up to take him. In his most recent weekly newsletter, Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times was the latest to explicitly report as much:
The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported this week that the Lakers have had internal discussions about possibly trading Russell Westbrook, but according to my sources around the NBA, the appetite for that player making $44 million this season and $47 million the next is low.
Maybe a team with a playoff-hungry owner could convince themselves that Westbrook’s competitiveness would push their team into one of the top 10 spots in each conference and maybe past the play-in round. But would those teams want to send back the kinds of players in a trade that would help the Lakers win, weakening their own position to do so? Again, the chances of that are low.
The first graf there is, again, not surprising. The second one is interesting, though. What kind of team could that potentially describe? The first one that came to mind is the Sacramento Kings, who seem just desperate and crazy enough to do something like that at midseason.
But after asking Silver Screen and Roll’s resident Kangz expert, Christian Rivas, in Slack, I’m less sure that would happen.
So maybe there is another team out there in the most point guard heavy NBA in decades that could use nearly $100 million remaining dollars of Russ, but it seems unlikely. For better or worse, the Lakers are probably just going to have to find ways to make this work.
The good news is that, despite last night’s embarrassing loss to their feeder team, the Lakers have mostly been trending in the right direction lately. As long as Westbrook and the team continue to figure each other out and learn how to make this work with Westbrook in his lowest-usage role since his second season in the league, they’ll likely be on a better path than simply just dumping him would create. If that’s what happens, then it ultimately won’t matter much if teams want to trade for him in the next month. And if it doesn’t, it’s worth remembering that it’s also not totally clear trading him just to trade him would steer them in a better direction, anyway.
In short: The Lakers made their bed. Now, barring a miracle, they have to figure out the most comfortable position in which to lie in it.