As NBA trade rumors concerning the Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook reached a fever pitch this summer, one of the early, odds-on favorites to acquire him were the Charlotte Hornets (likely in a deal headlined by Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, or both).
The Hornets were one of the first teams linked to Westbrook as the rumor mill churned into full force, and it wasn’t necessarily because of Hayward, whose two-year contract the Lakers reportedly viewed as an impediment to a deal due to his health history even before his latest lengthy injury absence.
No, in keeping with Rob Pelinka’s love of certified buckets under 6’4, the player they actually wanted was almost unmistakably Rozier, who Shams Charania of The Athletic reported they still had “high” interest in Rozier going into the season. And according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers even discussed one potential deal that would have brought Rozier to Los Angeles as part of the Donovan Mitchell trade:
When the Charlotte Hornets (7-16) made a pitch to the Utah Jazz for Donovan Mitchell during the offseason, the Lakers discussed a multi-team deal that would have brought Terry Rozier to L.A. Mitchell instead ended up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rozier is averaging a career-high 5.7 assists per game this season on the Hornets, but his shooting has fallen off a cliff (29.6 percent from three). Would he find his stroke alongside better players than Charlotte has on its young roster?
It’s unknown who and what the Lakers would have been sending out in that deal, and I can already hear the comments asking why this is even relevant now. Well, the simple answer is that the Hornets (7-16 overall) seemingly have more incentive than ever to swap out their decent players for value while they head fully into the #WoefulForWemby tank race. And with the Lakers reportedly leaning more towards a smaller deal involving Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn and a first-round pick rather than a blockbuster Westbrook deal, it is worth noting that a deal featuring those exact contracts for Rozier does work legally, so this wouldn’t even necessarily a Russ trade anymore if the two teams did reapproach each other.
(I included the 2027 first for the purposes of this screenshot, but the Lakers could obviously add protections, or include different pick(s) depending on how negotiations with our old friend and Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak go):
Now, would converting two undersized shooting guards into one help the Lakers a whole lot? Given that Nunn got a DNP-CD on Sunday and Beverley has looked pretty rough at times offensively — and the fact that the Lakers have too many guards to begin with — it just might.
I’m not necessarily advocating for this specific deal, as I haven’t watched Rozier enough this year to feel comfortable arguing one way or the other, but given that we now have multiple reports of the Lakers’ interest in him, he is at the very least a name we should probably keep an eye on as the trade market continues to take shape over the next month or so.