This may be one of the most critical offseasons for the Los Angeles Lakers in a long time. Given the expectations, one could argue the 2021-22 season was one of the worst in franchise history. It was not that they missed the play-in and the playoffs for that matter, but it is the way they lost at times. This roster needs an overhaul and it starts with Russell Westbrook.
The former MVP is about to enter the final year of his contract, where he is owed $47 million. Technically, he has a player option, so he could choose to control his own destiny. However, we all know he will not turn down that type of money as he approaches the latter end of his career.
So the Lakers have limited options, either they trade him, buy him out or release him. There have been rumors swirling about a potential deal with the Charlotte Hornets (as well as the Indiana Pacers reported originally here by Dan Woike and Brad Turner of the L.A. Times), where the Lakers could potentially get a couple of pieces back for Westbrook and one or both of the Lakers’ first-round picks. The Hornets would be looking to get off the contracts of some combination of Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Kelly Oubre, Jr., however, according to Marc Stein, the Lakers would prefer a package around Rozier rather than Hayward.
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.
Injuries have played a major part in LeBron James and Anthony Davis’s tenure with the Lakers, so it makes sense for the team to want to add players that will stay on the floor. Hayward’s once-promising career has been filled with injuries and at 32-years-old, you can expect more of the same moving forward. As bad as the Westbrook fit was for the Lakers, he at least played.
Rozier will not help with the defensive struggles the Lakers experienced this year, but he did average 19.3 points last season and shot 37% from three. More importantly, he played in 73 games this season and the Lakers need that consistency. With Westbrook’s enormous contract, the Lakers would also likely get some other pieces on top of Rozier, which hopefully ends up being wings who can shoot and play defense such as Oubre.
It won’t be easy to trade Westbrook’s contract, but attaching a draft pick could sweeten the deal as his contract is expiring. The Lakers won’t have many suitors, but they still need to be very careful to get as much value in return as possible. With LeBron under contract for one more season, they cannot afford to let another year go to waste.