The Los Angeles Lakers had a disappointing year but one analyst has the team shooting for the stars this offseason. Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz has the Lakers landing nine-time NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook on his list of potential deals that could help playoff teams that had first-round exits.
The trade proposal has the Lakers sending the Wizards Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, a 2023 second-round selection and 2024 second-round pick. It is hard to imagine this deal would be appealing to the Wizards unless they are trying to unload Westbrook’s deal. The Lakers also have little in the way of draft capital they can trade this summer thanks to their recent deals.
Westbrook’s salary next season is $44.2 million, and he still has two years remaining on his five-year, $206.79 million contract, per Spotrac . His salary jumps up to $47 million during the 2022-23 season when he will be 33 years old. Westbrook averaged 22.2 points , 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds while shooting 31.5% from three-point range in 65 games for the Wizards last season.
“If Washington ends up trading Bradley Beal before he hits free agency next summer, there’s no reason to keep Westbrook around,” Swartz explained. “Getting off his two-year, $91.2 million deal would be a nice relief, especially if broken down into three more manageable contracts. Kuzma looked better all-around this year in the regular season, and Harrell (who’d have to pick up his $9.7 million player option) forms a nice center rotation with Daniel Gafford.”
James Is a Big Fan of Westbrook
Swartz’s trade idea is a longshot, but it does solve a key challenge the Lakers face this offseason. The deal gives the Lakers a legitimate third star that would ease some of the pressure off LeBron James and Anthony Davis. For the Lakers to add another star this offseason, the most likely option is for the team to trade for a player who is on a bad contract similar to Westbrook. With no cap space, the Lakers are going to find it challenging to greatly improve their roster in free agency.
James has been a big fan of Westbrook throughout his career. The Lakers star recently took to Instagram to post a photo of the two of them together on the court adding a note of praise.
“We know y’all HATE & don’t APPRECIATE but we just laugh it off!” James said on Instagram on April 29. “But 1 thing you will do is RESPECT IT/US🤝 #GoodkidsMadCity #HiHaters👋🏾”
James has stood up for Westbrook on multiple occasions after in-game incidents with fans, most recently when someone dumped popcorn on the All-Star as he exited a Wizards-Sixers playoff game with an injury. The Lakers star sounded off about a fan incident during a Jazz-Thunder game in 2019.
“Obviously, Russ is a very passionate guy but Russ is married with three kids, a set of twins,” James said at the time, per USA Today . “No matter if you like him or love him or the way that he plays the game, the guy is one of the most loyal people that I know; one of the most down to earth guys that I know. That guy just took it too far on the other end.”
Kuzma Could Be a Key Trade Piece for the Lakers This Offseason
Another part of the proposal that makes sense is the Lakers dealing Kuzma, who is one of the few tradeable assets the team has to explore dealing this offseason. Kuzma is set to begin a team-friendly three-year, $39 million contract extension next season, but the chances are slim that the forward has enough appeal around the league to be the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal. USA Today’s Mark Medina expects Kuzma to be the subject of trade rumors this summer.
“No, James and Davis won’t and should not go anywhere,” Medina noted. “But can’t see why the Lakers would have any interest in keeping Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond and Montrezl Harrell. The Lakers should keep Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker since they’re mostly reliable role players. But expect Kyle Kuzma to be attached in trade talks considering his team-friendly extension and his failure to have season-long consistency.”