Los Angeles Lakers may have a way out of Russell Westbrook fiasco after all


As we enter the 2022 free agency period, there is one overriding storyline surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers – the potential acquisition of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving is currently unhappy with his current situation with the Brooklyn Nets, as he wants a long-term contract with the organization. Irving has a $36.5 million player option with the Nets for next season, but could make a lot more money with a long-term deal with Brooklyn or signing with a new team via a deal. signature and exchange.

Even if all goes well, the Nets are not trading Irving for Russell Westbrook. According to ESPN analyst Brian Windhorst, Brooklyn is only willing to trade Irving to the Lakers in exchange for Anthony Davis.

Via Lakers Daily:

“The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly potential suitors for Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving this offseason, but the team shouldn’t part ways with star Anthony Davis to acquire him.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst revealed on his podcast that the Nets would only agree to a trade with the Lakers if Davis was involved. However, Windhorst also said he “can’t see” that happening for the Lakers this offseason.

Let’s be clear: trading Davis for Irving won’t change anything. While the Lakers will likely have Irving on the court for games that the injury-prone Davis does, they would still have Westbrook on the roster in this scenario. Having three dominant players on the ball in LeBron James, Irving and Westbrook could actually make things worse.

The only scenario in which the Lakers cannot escape this drudgery is offloading Westbrook. Considering the Nets are unwilling to face Westbrook and his $47.0 million player option for the 2022-23 season, the Lakers may have a way out of the point guard contract after all.

According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Charlotte Hornets’ interest in Westbrook “is real”.

In a pre-draft column by O’Connor, the NBA analyst highlights how the Hornets have decisions to make regarding the future contracts of young players such as Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball. With that in mind, Charlotte needs to start shedding the contracts of older veterans like Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier.

“The interest from Russell Westbrook signaled by Marc Stein months ago is real,” says O’Connor. “While Westbrook doesn’t make sense as a player next to Ball, he has an expiring contract and the Hornets could drop the bag for restricted free agent Miles Bridges, plus LaMelo Ball’s extension is at Street corner. It’s a good time to move another long-term salary (eg Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier) for an expiring contract to Russ.

It doesn’t really matter whether the Lakers lead a team led by James-Irving-Westbrook or James-Davis-Westbrook – it will always result in a losing season.

The key is finding a way to transfer Westbrook’s expiring contract to a team looking to get rid of cap commitments and the Hornets just happen to be one of those teams.

Although Charlotte is coming off a strong 2021-22 campaign that saw them finish 43-39 and enter the play-in tournament, the Hornets have never been a cash-spending team under the ownership of Michael Jordan. .

After Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson opted out of his contract to become head coach of the Hornets, Charlotte opted for one of their former coaches, Steve Clifford. For the record, Clifford never led the Hornets to the first round in five years as the franchise’s head coach.

In other words, despite some fine franchise plays in Ball and Bridges, Charlotte likely won’t be vying for an NBA title anytime soon. With the 24-year-old decks set to command a max contract — reportedly over $30 million a year — with Ball likely to follow after, the Hornets must take steps to avoid the luxury tax bill.

This means players such as Hayward and Rozier become viable options for the Lakers in a deal with Westbrook. Hayward still has two years left on his contract at just over $30 million per season in each of those years. Meanwhile, Rozier still has three years left on his contract averaging $24 million a year with 2025-26 as the potentially guaranteed season.

Hayward is obviously the more attractive option given his ability to shoot and fit in as a third wheel alongside James and Davis. He averaged 15.9 points per game on 39.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc last season.

If the Hornets can bundle Hayward and another short-term contract into a deal for Westbrook, the Lakers should absolutely accept that trade.

The Lakers made one of the worst decisions in NBA history when they acquired Westbrook. Not only is he ill-suited on the pitch, but he has shown little willingness to change his approach after a disastrous 2021-22 season.

The sooner the Lakers get rid of Westbrook, the better off they will be. Moving Westbrook for a solid shooter in Hayward might not lead to a title, but it will certainly make the Lakers a playoff contender again.

Which is a drastic improvement from what they experienced last season.