The Los Angeles Lakers had talks about a potential Russell Westbrook trade with the Utah Jazz, NBA insider Chris Haynes wrote for Bleacher Report on Friday morning.
Haynes also reported that the Lakers are motivated to make one more deal before the deadline next week:
The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz have had exploratory conversations centered around star guard Russell Westbrook, league sources tell Bleacher Report. However, the Lakers are said to be in communication with most teams to sift through the most reasonable and logical options available.
The belief within the Lakers’ organization is that they need to make at least one more move by the Feb. 9 trade deadline to give themselves a legitimate shot at competing for a championship, sources say. The acquisition of Rui Hachimura and the return of Anthony Davis has provided a jolt of energy and a renewed sense of confidence in the locker room, along with some added motivation.
Haynes is as reliable as reporters come when dropping scoops about the purple and gold in recent years, and while he did not specify who the Jazz would have been sending back, there was a potential hint further down in his article for B/R, when he wrote under the subheading “Malik Beasley’s Market” that rival executives “believe the Utah Jazz have a team — or multiple teams — willing to offer a first-round pick for shooting guard Malik Beasley.”
Could one such team be the Lakers? We don’t know, but if just that one pick also allows them to swap out Westbrook for Beasley and a few better-fitting players before the deadline to flesh out their depth, it’s logical that at least one might be on the table.
Beasley, a 6’4 shooting guard making 36.2% of his threes this season, would also seem to check a lot of boxes in terms of what the Lakers front office generally targets (for what it’s worth, his career percentage from deep is 38.1%).
If the Lakers were to try and acquire him in a deal with the Jazz, our own Alex Regla showed on Twitter that a few iterations of potential deals could work financially:
Just from money matching purposes, a couple configurations work for a Lakers/Jazz trade, but I would assume it would be some type of framework like this: https://t.co/1FLgcQ3n9A pic.twitter.com/SPpTeOGU3w— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) February 3, 2023
That said, I doubt the Lakers would throw in both picks on most packages despite the appeal of guys like Beasley/Vanderbilit in particular.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) February 3, 2023
But, perhaps helping shed the longer term money for more immediate flexibility for Utah comes with better protections on any outgoing picks
In trade iterations like the ones above, Conley would also intrigue for a few reasons:
- His $22 million salary this season would take up a good chunk of Russ’ cap hit and allow the Lakers to also acquired two younger-ish players on more affordable deals.
- Of the $24 million he’s making next season, only $14.3 million is guaranteed, per Spotrac. That would give the Lakers a large contract to deal this summer for even more help with more picks, while offering a team significant cash savings in return, something Westbrook’s expiring contract won’t give them the chance to do without flipping it for longer-term money at the deadline.
- Conley is also just plainly a better fit in this team’s closing lineups than Westbrook. While he’s smaller, he’s a heady, pass-first vet who is more of a spacing threat than teams will ever treat Westbrook as.
Getting someone like Jarred Vanderbilt — a 23-year-old, 6’9, high-activity, offensive rebounding monster who shoots 56% from the field — as the cherry on top does make a deal like this intriguing, even if it’s also still hard to see the Lakers considering it worth both of their currently available first-round picks.
Still, with the trade deadline rapidly approaching on Feb. 9, expect more reports and rumors like this as the team tries to figure out all their options.
What do you think of these hypothetical acquisitions? Let us know in the comments below.
This breaking news story may be updated with more information and analysis as it continues to develop.