Lakers Rumors: L.A. Expected To Again Engage Teams On Russell Westbrook Trades After Regular Season Starts
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest topic of conversation surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers for the last year has been Russell Westbrook and whether or not he can make it work on the team.

The Lakers’ 2021-22 season obviously didn’t go as they had hoped after acquiring the former MVP in a blockbuster trade with the Washington Wizards.

Going into the 2022-23 season, Westbrook still has one year and around $47 million remaining on his contract. Given the Lakers’ lack of draft assets, they have been unsuccessful in trading Westbrook’s expiring contract to this point, so he will begin the season on the team hoping to make it work under new head coach Darvin Ham.

Things haven’t exactly gotten off to the best start despite the organization’s optimism. Westbrook is coming off his worst preseason game on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, prompting Ham to test out bringing him off the bench in Friday’s preseason finale.

Bringing Westbrook off the bench seems to be a last-ditch effort for L.A. If that doesn’t work out, then ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on ‘NBA Today’ that the Lakers will again engage teams on trade talks once the regular season starts:

“The Lakers are some point here will start engaging teams again on possible Russell Westbrook trades. They paused it essentially at the start of training camp and I think typically most teams, it gets a little quiet here as teams are putting their rosters together, making their cuts and then seeing what it looks like playing preseason games… The Lakers, still armed with those two first-round picks, future first-round picks and Westbrook’s expiring contract, would like to go out and improve this team certainly before the trade deadline. I think you can expect them to start canvassing again at some point once the regular season starts.”

The Lakers still likely won’t be able to trade Westbrook right away, but as the season go along and more teams begin tanking to get into the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, more options might open up for Rob Pelinka.

Over the summer, the Lakers got closest on a Westbrook trade with the Indiana Pacers involving Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. With the Pacers expected to be one of the bottom-tier teams in the Eastern Conference, they are likely one of the teams the Lakers will again contact to make a trade.

Pelinka willing to trade draft picks but knows he can only do it once

What return the Lakers are able to get for Westbrook will depend on how much draft compensation they are willing to include. As far as first-round picks go, the Lakers only have the ability to trade 2027 and 2029 and while Pelinka is willing to do so, he understands that he only has one opportunity to get it right.

“Let me be abundantly clear: We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game on our team, and he committed to us on a long-term contract,” Pelinka said at Media Day. “So of course we will do everything we can, picks included, to make deals that give us a chance to help LeBron get to the end. He committed to our organization, that’s gotta be a bilateral commitment.

“But let me also be clear: teams can’t trade all their picks every year. You can only trade every other year. You have one shot to make a trade with multiple picks, so if you make that trade it has to be the right one. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that can improve our roster.”

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