However, the Lakers haven’t been receptive to that idea and have no intention – at least for the time being – of using one of their future first-rounders to facilitate a Westbrook deal, Buha reports.
Westbrook is expected to pick up his $47.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season and will be one of the league’s most expensive players following a disappointing first year in Los Angeles. Although he’ll be on an expiring contract, Westbrook will be a negative trade asset, with teams only willing to take him on if the Lakers sweeten the pot.
Having already traded away a pair of future first-round picks, the Lakers can currently only trade either their 2027 or 2028 selection. After next month’s draft, they’d be able to include their 2027, 2028, and 2029 first-rounders in trade discussions — if they move the ’27 or ’29 first-rounder, they wouldn’t be able to trade the ’28 pick due to the Stepien rule.
But the front office appears averse to attaching any of those picks to Westbrook, and Buha suggests it’s not just a negotiating stance to regain leverage. League sources tell The Athletic that people within the franchise genuinely believe that the right head coach and supporting cast can help Westbrook fit in better going forward.
Buha personally believes that bringing back Westbrook would be a mistake, arguing that the Lakers should be willing to include a first-rounder if necessary to make a deal or even to take the approach the Rockets did with John Wall, leaving the point guard at home to start the season. Waiving and stretching Westbrook’s contract or attempting to negotiate a buyout are other possible paths for L.A., but Buha views those as unlikely.
While the Lakers may not be interested in giving up a first-round pick just to dump Westbrook’s salary, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t be more open to the idea if they’re getting a couple legitimate rotation players in return.
Buha identifies the Pacers and Hornets as potential trade partners that may appeal to the Lakers, listing Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington, Kelly Oubre, and Mason Plumlee as possible veterans of interest. I’m skeptical that a couple of those players would be legitimately attainable in a Westbrook deal, even with a first-round pick attached, but if the Lakers were willing to put two first-rounders on the table, more options would open up.