As ugly as Russell Westbrook’s contract is — and it’s pretty ugly at $47 million next season — it is not undesirable. The fact is that even a $47 million expiring deal remains valuable to the right teams in the right circumstances.
The challenge for the Lakers will not only be finding those teams, but finding the right deals with them as well. Two of the teams that have been targeted by many are the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers, both teams with players on huge salaries as well.
According to Dan Woike of the LA Times, both teams have begun to emerge as candidates to make a move for Westbrook.
Teams such as Charlotte and Indiana, two that league sources say could be involved, could possibly move a package of players to the Lakers for Westbrook.
The best way to envision a trade involving Westbrook is as a purely financial transaction. Westbrook is due $47 million next season, as mentioned, and while a trade for Gordon Hayward or Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield may not make complete sense on the court, it will provide immense financial relief to the teams acquiring Westbrook.
For example, Hayward is still due $60 million over the next two seasons. Brogdon is due $67.6 million and Hield $40.3, the former over the next three years and the latter the next two years.
Charlotte’s blowout exit from the play-in game, the second year in a row they’ve been routed in the play-in game, may push the team into big offseason changes as well. The Pacers are in full-on rebuild mode, and shedding over $100 million in salary for Westbrook’s $47 million would be plenty enticing as a starting point.
The calculus the Lakers are going to have to make is how much long-term money they are comfortable with taking on to part with Westbrook, and what type of incentives would need to be attached either outgoing or incoming. There are other teams that could be included in the fray as well as, obviously, these aren’t the only three bad contracts in the NBA.
But the point remains that it’s becoming increasingly clear the Lakers are going to have options to move Westbrook, and not just in a salary dump this offseason.