Russell Westbrook has not had a good season with the Los Angeles Lakers, and there's no doubt that he has been the target of a lot of criticism. He was a poor fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and failed to adapt to being a good No. 3 option.
There have been many suggestions that the Los Angeles Lakers should move on from Russell Westbrook by trading him. The Lakers were notably linked with point guard Kyrie Irving earlier in the offseason, but unfortunately, were unable to acquire him.
Though there have been other pathways for the Los Angeles Lakers to move Russell Westbrook, the team has resisted doing that thus far. Perhaps there could be benefits to keeping the point guard on the roster.
Sam Amick And Jovan Buha Reveal The Lakers Want To Have Cap Space In 2023 And To Keep Their Picks
A recent report by Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of The Athletic revealed that the Los Angeles Lakers have not moved Russell Westbrook yet due to them having a 'hopeful vision' for their future past the 2022-23 season. They revealed that by the time free agency rolls around in July 2023, the Los Angeles Lakers could potentially have a max salary slot, and valuable future first-round picks.
According to a high-level Lakers source, their refusal to do Westbrook deals with Indiana and Utah that have been discussed in various capacities for months has everything to do with this hopeful vision for their future beyond this season. In July 2023 the Lakers could not only be flushed with enough cash to add another maximum-salary-level player but also in possession of their first-round picks from 2027 and 2029.
As it stands, 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. (Jones also has a player option worth $2.6 million.) With the salary cap projected to be $134 million, Los Angeles could create upwards of $30 million to $35 million or so in cap space. If their widely known interest in Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving isn’t satisfied via trade by then, Irving could reunite with James the easy way when he’s an unrestricted free agent. Other notable free agents could include Khris Middleton (player option), Fred VanVleet (player option), Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Herro (restricted) and Jordan Poole (restricted).
Add in that retaining the first-round picks could open up all sorts of impactful opportunities on the trade market, and you start to see why there’s such a strong reluctance to make any moves that would hinder this plan.
Obviously, that is a pathway that could be beneficial in the future. It is easy to see the appeal of adding an impact player like Kyrie Irving or Andrew Wiggins in next year's free agency without giving up draft compensation.
However, keeping Russell Westbrook also has risks when it comes to the Lakers' immediate chances of competing during the upcoming 2022-23 season. The Lakers are clearly in a tough position, and we'll see what they end up doing in the future.