To get off of Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract, the Lakers are going to have to exhaust just about every avenue imaginable. After posturing throughout much of the playoffs that they were seriously considering retaining him, it sounds like the front office is looking to cash in on any leverage built to make a move in the near future.
Among those franchises that the Lakers have reportedly called are the Indiana Pacers. The basis of the deal remains something centered around Russ, Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield strictly so the financials can work. On Tuesday’s episode of Zach Lowe’s The Lowe Post, Jonathan Givony stopped by to talk about the draft and shared this nugget near the end of the episode about the Lakers:
“They’re being active. You’re hearing some, you know, they’re calling Indiana and saying ‘How do you feel about Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker and our 2026 first rounder?’ and they just get a nice chuckle and a ‘No thank you. We’ve got better deals on the table than that.’”
It should be noted that the tone Givony used in this was more of a hypothetical one and it didn’t sound like he was reporting that was the specific deal the Lakers offered. For one, the deal doesn’t work from a salary standpoint and two, the Lakers don’t technically have their 2026 pick available to trade, though Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report offered some clarification on that:
Was asked, how can the Lakers trade a 2026 first if they may owe their 2024 or 2025 to the Pelicans. I wrote on how to get around the Stepien Rule @SportsBizClass https://t.co/k0EPEjy8XJ - Answer to this one would be in the two-years after section— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) June 21, 2022
What Givony does report, though, is that the Lakers have discussed deals for Brogdon. It would be tricky to pull off, but the logic behind a Russ-Brogdon deal is similar to the discussions with the Hornets about Westbrook for Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier. There is current value in the players, but the total sum of their longterm contracts outweigh their on-court benefits, especially for their current teams.
With Brogdon, the situation is a little bit different as he is a 50/40/90-caliber player when healthy, even if that’s typically only been about 50 games each season. Because of that, the Pacers may be looking for a better deal than a straight salary dump, which at this point, is what a trade for Russ’ expiring would be.
In the same episode, Lowe also reported this about Anthony Davis:
“Let’s make a couple other things clear: I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that Anthony Davis is not getting traded, so let’s just get that out of the way. Let alone for Kyrie.”
Not that it needed to be cleared, necessarily. But AD will continue to be a Laker.
The big news on Monday was that the Lakers were interested in Kyrie Irving, who remains at an impasse with the Nets. Certainly, multiple teams are interested in Irving, but the Nets being interested in what those teams have to offer is a whole different story.
When it comes to what the Lakers might have to offer, the interest simply isn’t there. Unlike other Russ deals, the Nets gain no financial flexibility by trading for Russ. On top of that, a Russ-Kevin Durant team has probably been played out to its logical end, and that was a decade ago when each had far fewer physical limitations.
Most of the league seems to be shrugging off any potential noise regarding a Lakers and Nets superstar guard swap, as noted on Tuesday by Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report:
Word of Irving’s interest in the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks has circulated among league personnel since the NBA Draft Combine in mid-May, but few team executives have given much credence to that chatter.
If Irving were to opt in for the ‘22-23 season with a hope of being traded to Los Angeles, Brooklyn would have little incentive to negotiate with the Lakers, who would struggle to send commensurate value back to the Nets.
The only way to manufacture a deal sending Irving to Los Angeles in exchange for Russ might be through a three-teamer. For instance, a team like Charlotte or Indiana could step in to take on Russ’ expiring for the financial flexibility his contract would give them after this season, while perhaps Brooklyn could be prefer Hayward, Rozier, Brogdon, or Hield to Westbrook or Kyrie.
But that’s multiple steps down the road for a deal that few believe will happen, like Marc Stein noted in his Spotify Greenroom session with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer on Monday.
“My very hot take is the Nets are not going to take Russell Westbrook back for Kyrie Irving... One to one, the Nets are not doing a Kyrie deal with the Lakers. I really struggle to see it.”
O’Connor went on to discuss how a three-team trade could be possible, but as Stein noted, a straight swap of Westbrook for Irving seems impossible at this point.