After a disappointing 2021-22 season, the Los Angeles Lakers now have a big summer ahead as they look to get things back on track.
The Lakers have already made one significant change by firing head coach Frank Vogel, and it looks like another could be on the way.
Perhaps no one took more blame for the Lakers’ failed season then Russell Westbrook, who was the team’s big acquisition last summer in hopes of getting back into championship contention.
For a variety of reasons, Westbrook’s first season in his hometown didn’t go as planned, and now with him expected to pick up his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season, all reports have indicated the organization will look to trade him.
Considering Westbrook is a declining player on a high price tag, trading him won’t be a simple task for the Lakers. He will be playing on an expiring contract though, which could make him appealing to teams looking to get out of long-term salaries.
One team that fits that category is the Charlotte Hornets, who will need to pay Mile Bridges, LaMelo Ball and PJ Washington in the coming years. Because of that, the Hornets have already been linked to the Lakers in Westbrook trade talks with the idea of them getting out of long-term salaries such as Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr.
According to NBA insider Marc Stein, the Lakers would prefer to acquire Rozier over Hayward given the latter’s injury history:
Yet it has since been conveyed to me that the Lakers have more boundaries than advertised when it comes to weighing Westbrook trades. One league source said that injury histories would be a prime consideration in any deal, given how injuries have so routinely intruded upon the last two seasons for both 37-year-old LeBron James and 29-year-old Anthony Davis.
Translation: The Lakers are unlikely to consent to a Charlotte trade headlined by Gordon Hayward — not after Hayward’s first two seasons in Charlotte have likewise been injury-filled. The Lakers surely understand that they need to factor in durability if they are taking on long-term money, which suggests that Terry Rozier would have to be the Southern California-bound headliner if the Hornets and Lakers eventually progress to serious trade talks.
The Lakers looking to acquire more durable players makes sense given their injury luck the last two seasons with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and others missing significant time.
Rozier has appeared in no less than 63 games in each of the last six seasons, playing a total of 438 games in that span. Meanwhile, in those same six seasons, Hayward has played 63 games or more just twice and his total is just 291. Hayward is also 32 years of age compared to 28 for Rozier.
As far as contract situation goes, Hayward has two years and around $31 million per season remaining on his deal while Rozier has for years and around $23 million per season remaining on the extension he recently signed.
Westbrook trade options increasing?
Both players can shoot and would theoretically fit in well with the Lakers, so it will be interesting to see if they are able to get their choice, which seems to be Rozier, or if they will have to settle for Hayward.
Either way, it seems more likely by the day that the Lakers will be able to trade Westbrook and won’t have to worry about buying him out or waiving and stretching his contract.
If the Hornets deal does not come to fruition, the Lakers and Indiana Pacers have already been linked on a potential trade involving Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield.
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