Through the first half of the 2021-22 season, the Los Angeles Lakers have failed to meet expectations as they currently sit a game below .500 at 22-23.
While there are countless reasons for that, many people are pegging a lot of the Lakers’ issues on either head coach Frank Vogel or Russell Westbrook.
When the Lakers traded for Westbrook in the offseason, the hope was that he would be the team’s third star alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The other two have each missed time due to injury though, and Westbrook’s play has been subpar compared to expectations, so the Lakers haven’t truly gotten to see what they can be this season.
If they feel the Westbrook experiment isn’t working though, then it’s possible they look to trade him before the Feb. 10 deadline. That would be no easy task though as Westbrook still has one year remaining on his massive contract beyond this season though in the form of a $47 million player option that he would be crazy to turn down.
It appears there may be one team interested if L.A. does want to deal him as according to NBA insider Marc Stein, the Houston Rockets would consider swapping John Wall for Westbrook if the Lakers were to include draft compensation:
I have been advised that I should amend my previous characterization of the Lakers’ finding a Westbrook trade from outright impossible to extremely unlikely. There is at least one team out there that would take him, league sources say, if the conditions are right.
That team, surprisingly, is the Houston Rockets.
I, like many around the league, was previously under the impression that the Rockets would have less than zero interest in a Westbrook reunion after Houston traded Westbrook to Washington for John Wall in December 2020 shortly before the start of last season.
I’ve since learned that the Rockets — while indeed holding no interest in having Westbrook play for them again — actually would be amenable to another Westbrook-for-Wall swap if the Lakers incentivized the trade with sufficient draft compensation.
To be clear: This is not a scenario likely to materialize between now and Feb. 10 or one I would advise the Lakers to pursue so soon even after all of my criticism of the Westbrook trade in the first place.
Yet sources say that the Lakers could convince Houston to take Westbrook back for Wall if they attached their 2027 first-round draft pick to the deal. The Lakers could naturally try to offer multiple second-round picks instead, but L.A.’s 2027 first-rounder is the piece rival teams naturally covet.
It makes sense why the Rockets would be willing to do this as Wall has the exact same contract as Westbrook and is not currently playing for Houston despite being healthy. So with the Rockets being in a rebuilding phase, getting a first-round pick from the Lakers down the road to make that swap would be in their best interest.
From L.A.’s perspective though, that 2027 first-round pick has a ton of value around the league considering it could be after James’ time with the team is complete.
By giving it away to get off Westbrook’s deal, they would not only be admitting their trade for him in the summer was a mistake, but they also would get getting rid of one of their only assets that could potentially be used to improve the team at the deadline or in coming years.
If the Rockets would be willing to settle for second-round picks though, then that may change some things for the Lakers.
Westbrook speaks out on being benched for first time
In the Lakers’ last game, a loss to the Indiana Pacers, Vogel actually decided to bench Westbrook for the final four minutes due to his poor play.
After not speaking to the media after the game, Westbrook finally spoke out on Friday morning and basically said that while he was disappointed with being benched, he was more upset that the Lakers lost the game. He also added that he is willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win.
With that being said, the Lakers will likely give him until the deadline to see if that’s possible. If things don’t begin to turn around though, then maybe they do give Houston a call and cut their losses and salvage whatever is left of the season.
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