Lakers newsletter: What would a Russell Westbrook trade look like?

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook brings the ball up during a game against the Jazz
Russell Westbrook
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Although we’ve come

To the end of the road

Still I can’t let go


At the end of this road though, no issues letting go. This is Dan Woike with the Los Angeles Times writing the latest Lakers newsletter now that I’ve showered this past season off of me. The Lakers, though, won’t be able to wash away their problems, an offseason filled with complex issues that need attention.

Today, we’ll look at maybe the juiciest – what trading Russell Westbrook could actually look like.

So how does this happen?

As Russell Westbrook began to play his best basketball of the season, the rumblings started to happen in some NBA circles that maybe the Lakers might just end up keeping their point guard after all.

He wasn’t the MVP that he used to be in his final 15 games, but he had seemed to shake off some of the yips he’d been dealing with, hit big shots in what qualified at the time as big wins, like the one in Toronto and looked much more settled.

But the Lakers kept losing and, in his one game back with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Westbrook again looked lost and rhythm-less. And this week, in his season-ending media session, Westbrook discussed his problems with Frank Vogel, how James and Davis wouldn’t let him be himself and how he never felt like he got a fair chance to impact the organization the way he knows how.


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So yeah, any positivity about a nice-ish 15-game stretch can board a Space-X rocket headed for the moon.

Frank Vogel confers with guard Russell Westbrook.
Frank Vogel confers with guard Russell Westbrook.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Getting out of the Russell Westbrook business won’t be easy for the Lakers, no matter how coy the former MVP was on Monday when discussing his $47-million player option for next season. Turning that down would be almost criminal, so you can expect Westbrook to be on the Lakers’ roster into the offseason.

From there, it’ll be on the front office to either construct a trade, consider an outright release or trudge forwards and try to rebuild confidence and comfort with a new head coach.

As a warning – virtually all of the Westbrook trades you’ll hear about over the next month will follow the same formula. The Lakers would send Westbrook and either their 2027 first-round pick or their 2029 first-round pick (or, gulp, maybe both) to a team that would benefit by trading players with longer contacts back to the Lakers.

With Westbrook’s $47 million coming off the books after next season, the Westbrook contract acts as sort of an amnesty option for any organizations facing some regretful decisions over the next two or three seasons.


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.

On the surface, these trades sound great. If the Pacers were going to move Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield for Westbrook and a pick or picks, the Lakers would get the a floor-spacer in Hield they wanted last summer and a two-way point guard in Brogdon.

But Hield’s been unreliable and never a serious part of a winner, and Brogdon hasn’t played more than 60 games since the 2018-19 season. The same goes in Charlotte, where there would undoubtedly be a steeper price to be paid for Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward. Hayward, like Brogdon, has battled injuries and has played more than 50 games just once in the last three years.

Adding talent to the Lakers’ roster has to be a priority. But James and Davis are two of the NBA’s most talented players – and neither helped the Lakers push into the postseason because they weren’t available enough.

A clunkier, less financially attractive version of those deals could be with the New York Knicks, if they decide Julius Randle is a sunk asset. And then there’s the John Wall trade, which well, we’ve seen that before.

Basically, when sending out a player like Westbrook in a trade, expecting perfect fits in return is impossible. It’s functionally trading one set of problems for another.


To other teams, Westbrook represented a one-year problem on the books as a way to erase long-term commitments to other players. Some scouts and executives around the league don’t view Westbrook as a useful player at this stage, especially with a nearly $50 million price tag.

The Lakers could simply cut bait and release Westbrook, either using the stretch provision to move his salary cap hit over a handful of seasons or just bite the bullet and deal with it all at once (a far less likely scenario).

And lastly, they could just try again, find better shooters and defenders to surround him, James and Davis. Of course, every team will be scouring available players searching for ones that can shoot and defend, so finding a team full of them on an impossibly tight budget has its own challenges.

Song of the week

“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” by Father John Misty (LIVE at SPF30)

While the Lakers try and figure all this stuff out in the upcoming months, myself and my colleagues at the L.A. Times will be monitoring things and doing our best to keep you up to date. But I’ll be taking some “me time” too. One of those outings will be to go see Father John Misty at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Maybe I’ll use my expense account and tell my bosses it’s time to bury this last Lakers’ season for good.

Until next time...

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