While it still may be hard to process in many ways that Russell Westbrook is still part of the Lakers franchise heading into the preseason, it’s not an indication of any kind of commitment from the franchise to the enigmatic point guard. Based on seemingly every report, the only thing the franchise remains committed to is finding the perfect deal to part with Westbrook and the picks for.
That point was reiterated once again on Friday by longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter.
“Yet they have not ruled out a deal between now and the Feb. 9 trade deadline that involves taking on long-term salary and/or surrendering their much-discussed future first-round draft picks in 2027 and 2029 … but only if that trade is deemed to clearly return the fallen giants to contender status.”
It doesn’t take a lot to spin this in a positive light, even if it is a frustrating outcome. But Westbrook’s contract doesn’t become any less valuable as an expiring contract and, in fact, will look more appealing to teams as the season goes along.
That the Lakers are open to taking on long-term contracts makes the potential for a trade even greater. At some point this season, a team that expected to be a contender will realize that they are not contending and will want to abandon ship. Positioned with a huge expiring contract and multiple draft picks, the Lakers would be in a great spot to take advantage of the situation.
There also remains the possibility that someone like the Pacers softens their stance and lowers their asking price for the likes of Myles Turner and/or Buddy Hield. While many of the possibilities faded away this summer, not all of them are gone for the Lakers.
Now, that notion requires a certain amount of belief and trust in the Lakers front office, two things they’ve hardly earned in the past two seasons. It’s fair, then, for Lakers fans to be apprehensive about the whole matter.
The Lakers did not put all their chips on the table but their cards are still in their hands. With a little bit of luck and a little bit of smart maneuvering, there is still a way to come away from this situation winners.