Charlotte would only be interested in Westbrook in order to create long-term financial flexibility, and based on salary-matching rules, the team would have to send out roughly $38MM to acquire the former MVP. Stein points to Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier as contracts the team might want to move to accommodate a new deal for Miles Bridges this summer, plus the future max extension of LaMelo Ball.
Hayward has been very productive when healthy for Charlotte, but injuries have again been a concern. After appearing in 44 of 72 games last season, he’s played in 49 of 79 contests this season and is listed as doubtful for Thursday’s matchup with Orlando (Twitter link). Hayward will earn $30.075MM next season and $31.5MM in 2023/24.
Rozier has also been productive over the past few seasons. His four-year, $96.26MM extension starts next season, so he’ll be under contract through ’25/26.
Pairing Hayward or Rozier with Kelly Oubre could work as a framework of a deal, Stein says. He also notes that Hornets owner Michael Jordan has long admired Westbrook, although it isn’t known whether that would play a factor in a potential trade.
The Rockets remain the most logical trade partner for Westbrook due to John Wall‘s salary being a near-perfect match, but the Lakers might not find that any more palatable than they did previously, considering Houston was asking for a first-round pick, per Stein.
League sources tell Stein that the Lakers also haven’t ruled out using the waive-and-stretch provision on Westbrook’s contract, which would split his $47.06MM player option over three seasons with annual hits of $15.69MM. Going that route would take Los Angeles out of the luxury tax and make it much easier to retain Malik Monk; the team badly wants to bring him back, so it’s considered a viable possibility.