Although he has been in transfer rumors for months, Russell Westbrook remains a member of the Lakers squad to this day. This would be due to a very specific reason… and it does not necessarily have to do with the fact that his profile scares off the competition.
With the signature of Dennis Schröder, Russell Westbrook’s future in Los Angeles looks more in jeopardy than ever. Theoretically, the number 0 should be the holder of the lead, but after his first disastrous season there, the Lakers added two players to this position in the space of a few weeks, since Patrick Beverley also arrived. On paper, everything therefore points to a departure from the former Wizard before the start of the 2022-23 financial year.
This is all the more the case that the Californians are in contact with the Jazz and the Pacers in particular, in order to negotiate a potential transaction. And yet, the discussions are progressing in slow motion for the moment… In fact, this would be due to the front office of Rob Pelinka, according to The Athletic. We knew it, LA does not want to part with its draft picks. But apparently it’s the profile of the Brodie itself that would be the problem for the coming summer:
The Lakers strategy for 2023-24 revealed?
According to a senior Lakers source, their refusal to complete a trade with Indiana and Utah over Westbrook for months has everything to do with this hopeful view of their future beyond this season. In July 2023, the Lakers could not only have enough cash to add another player at maximum salary, but also be in possession of their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks.
Right now, the Lakers only have James ($46.9 million), Davis ($40.6 million) and rookie Max Christie ($1.7 million) under contract for the 2023-24 campaign. (Damian Jones also has a $2.6 million option). With a projected salary cap of $134 million, Los Angeles could create a space of $30-35 million. If their well-known interest in Kyrie Irving isn’t satisfied with a trade by then, Irving could find James easily when he’s an unrestricted free agent.
Other notable free agents could be Khris Middleton (player option, Fred VanVleet (player option), Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Herro (restricted) and Jordan Poole (restricted). Add to this that keeping the first-round picks could open up all sorts of opportunities in the trading market, it’s understandable why there’s such a reluctance to make any moves that would hamper that plan.
Clearly, rather than picking up some consideration for RW before the takeover, the franchise could simply let its contract expire next June, thus getting a huge amount of space under the salary cap. Enough to allow the leaders to completely reform a workforce which will then be very thin, apart from the LeBron-AD duo. The strategy is understandable, but not sure that it pleases the fans since it implies that Russ remains another ten months… and that will not necessarily benefit the results of the team.
According to The Athletic, it is because they are thinking above all of their future prospects that the Lakers are currently temporizing for a trade from Russell Westbrook. The opportunity to have a lot of room under the heading next year is therefore very attractive, even if it means keeping the Brodie for another year.