The Los Angeles Lakers have made two things clear over the last 24 hours: That they realize the Russell Westbrook experiment was a failure, and that even the players on the team know the organization can’t stand pat before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. Tie those two things together, and it’s not hard to infer that the front office may be looking to get off of Westbrook’s contract.
The problem with that sort of move, however, is that it would likely require a first-round pick, something the team currently only has one of (their 2027 choice). The Houston Rockets have repeatedly leaked that they’d be willing to take Westbrook for John Wall — who is not playing for them — if L.A. attached a first-round pick, a price the Lakers reportedly balked at weeks ago.
Did the last few games change their minds now that both they and Westbrook are clearly unhappy with this union? According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, apparently not, as he reported on “NBA Today” that Rob Pelinka and Co. are telling teams that their first-rounder isn’t available in talks:
“In recent discussions with the Lakers, teams who have talked to them have found that they are not willing to include the 2027 first-round pick. That’s the only first-round pick they can trade. If you take that off the table, finding a trade for Westbrook without being able to attach that pick, I think is very hard. I wouldn’t say anything is impossible, but right now from what I understand, the conversations the Lakers are having are with Talen Horton-Tucker, and I’m not so sure that’s going to make a massive difference on their roster.”
Now, we have to note that while I have no doubt that this is indeed what Windhorst is hearing from teams, that doesn’t mean I can’t also acknowledge that almost everything this close to the trade deadline is posturing. Maybe the Lakers really consider their first-rounder untouchable, but they also might just be negotiating hard now to ultimately make concessions somewhere in the middle by 12 p.m. on Thursday to get a deal done.
That’s just how these things often work. There isn’t a flurry of deals every deadline day just because GM’s are procrastinators. Or, at least that isn’t the entire reason. It’s to give everyone time to survey the market before deciding on what the best move for them is.
Maybe the Lakers will make it all the way through tomorrow without using their first-rounder to try and save an increasingly lost-looking season — that wouldn’t be the worst choice, especially if their best options are really Terrence Ross, Josh Richardson, or a Westbrook salary dump — but it is almost a certainty that they haven’t decided one way or the other yet.
Who is to say, for example, that if the Rockets came back with some sort of offer centered around Wall and rumored Lakers target Eric Gordon for Westbrook, Horton-Tucker and a first that the team doesn’t pull the trigger? I’m not saying that will happen, but the point is that there are surely unreported frameworks of deals the team would consider.
So hang tight. There will be plenty more whispers to come over the next day.
To keep up with all the latest reports before the deadline, check out our 2022 Lakers trade rumors tracker. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.