NBA Specials: Will the Lakers Trade for Russell Westbrook?

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Russell Westbrook and Lakers Logo

We’re now going on a year since the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship. By the Lakers’ ridiculous standards, that qualifies as an official drought. There have been thousands of babies born in the last year that have never witnessed a Laker title. Oh, the agony!

Of course, NBA betting sites expect Los Angeles to be right back in the hunt next season. BetOnline, for example, gave the Lakers the second-best odds of any team to win it all next year (+475). Only the Brooklyn Nets (+325) have better odds. Title contention is a perennial goal for this franchise, and they’re still armed with two of the league’s best players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Despite a disappointing first-round exit at the hands of the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs, this team will be fine. Getting to next year’s playoffs with a clean bill of health will presumably be LA’s top priority. That said, GM Rob Pelinka does have some questions to answer with regard to his team’s roster this summer.

Point guard Dennis Schroder has already turned down a couple of different contract offers from the team. Instead, the veteran is hoping to cash in on the unrestricted free agent market this summer. There is still a strong chance Schroder winds up back with the team if he doesn’t find any better offers out there on the open market, but time will tell. Alex Caruso is also set to hit free agency, which could leave the Lakers awfully thin in the backcourt.

The clock on LeBron is ticking, of course. He’ll turn 37 in December. He hasn’t shown many signs of aging thus far, but he won’t be capable of playing at an MVP level forever. Pelinka knows this, and you can expect the Lakers to be active on the player movement front in the coming offseason.

BetOnline is affording you the chance to wager on which point guard the Lakers will either trade for or sign before the 2021-22 season begins in October. Let’s sift through the options and find LeBron’s next point guard, shall we?

Patty Mills (+150)

First off, the Lakers don’t have a whole lot of financial leeway. With James and Davis both on the books on massive deals for the foreseeable future, the only way for the Lakers to dramatically reshape their roster would be via trade. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma are both making more than $10 million next season, while Montrezl Harrell has a player option for another $9.7 million. Harrell would be insane to turn that down given the way his value has tanked over the past year, so he’ll stay on the books for another year, barring a trade.

So, unless Schroder re-signs, the Lakers have limited options when it comes to finding a new point guard. Patty Mills has made a nice career for himself as a sharpshooter off the Spurs’ bench, but the soon-to-be 33-year-old is set to hit free agency. Mills is a career 38.8 percent shooter from three-point range, so he should have no trouble finding a home if the Spurs decline to bring him back.

The Lakers need as much shooting as they can possibly get around James and Davis. That said, Mills isn’t a particularly good defender, and he has never averaged more than 25 minutes in a single season of his career. At his age, Mills would likely be over-exposed if he were to be thrust into a starting role for a potential contender.

Of course, aging players are also typically inclined to take less money in order to play for a team with a chance of winning a title. Mills already has a championship under his belt, but I would imagine he would have plenty of interest if the Lakers came calling. The +150 odds don’t bring much upside, but Mills is certainly an option for the Lakers this summer if he’s willing to take a pay cut.

Goran Dragic (+200)

Goran Dragic was instrumental in the Heat’s unlikely Finals run in the bubble last summer, and he was able to parlay that strong showing into a lucrative new deal to stay in Miami. However, he could become a free agent this offseason if the Heat decide to decline his $19.4 million team option.

Miami is always willing to be aggressive when it comes to improving the roster, so the financial flexibility they would gain by letting Dragic walk is noteworthy. While Dragic is still an impactful player, nearly $20 million is also a lot to pay for a 35-year-old to play off the bench.

Would Dragic take the mid-level exception (or less?) to latch on with the Lakers? Possibly. Dragic has shown that he still has plenty left in the tank at his advanced age, so perhaps there would be a team or two out there willing to offer him more money than the Lakers could. The Lakers would do very well to land a player of Dragic’s caliber this summer, but I don’t think this marriage is as likely as the +200 odds indicate.

Austin Rivers (+250)

Austin Rivers raised some eyebrows with a few impressive moments in spot-start duty for the injury-plagued Nuggets last season. Rivers has reached the journeyman stage of his career, as Denver was his fifth different stop since 2018. The Nuggets may attempt to bring him back after he gave them some decent depth in the playoffs, especially considering Jamal Murray likely won’t be back in time to begin the new campaign.

The Nuggets would be able to offer Rivers a decent role, even if he’ll be coming off the bench. This guy would be more of an emergency last resort for a team like the Lakers hoping to stay relevant in the title picture next season. It’s possible that LA gets desperate enough to place the call, but I don’t love the +250 odds.

Derrick Rose (+300)

Derrick Rose is another guy that has enjoyed a late-career resurgence after a seemingly endless array of injuries. Rose emerged as a useful piece in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation during the Knicks’ unexpected playoff run last season, and he’ll hit unrestricted free agency this summer after banking nearly $8 million last year between Detroit and New York.

The Lakers have been linked with a move for Rose for years, and perhaps the stars will finally align this offseason. As much as Rose seems to enjoy playing for the Knicks, New York doesn’t really give him the best possible chance of winning a championship for the first time in his career. Could he choose comfort over the idea of taking a lesser role with a new team? Sure.

That said, there aren’t many players in Rose’s situation that wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to join LeBron and AD in Los Angeles, either. Rose has still shown a knack for finding his own shots when necessary, but he’s not going to command the ball as much as Schroder does. The veteran has also improved his shooting stroke over the years, and his 41.1 percent accuracy on three-pointers in 35 games with New York last year was the best mark of his pro career.

Rose also has a history with James after the two were briefly teammates with the Cavs back in 2017-18. At +300, Rose makes for a very intriguing option to wind up in LA this offseason.

Russell Westbrook (+400)

If the Lakers want to go big-game hunting, perhaps they’ll knock on the Wizards’ door and ask what it would take to pry Russell Westbrook out of DC. Westbrook had a fairly up-and-down year in his first season with the Wiz, but he did play pretty well down the stretch while leading Washington to a spot in the play-in tournament. He’ll turn 33 in November, however, and his contract is an absolute albatross. Russ will earn over $44 million in salary next season, and over $47 million in 2022-23.

On Wednesday, Yahoo’s Marc Spears reported that James has asked the Lakers about the possibility of trading for Westbrook this summer. Whether that’s in the Lakers’ actual best interests is certainly up for debate, but you can bet that Pelinka takes LeBron’s opinion seriously. Spears said that the Lakers have privately discussed a potential deal that would include a sign-and-trade of Dennis Schroder along with Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker in exchange for Westbrook.

Westbrook’s lack of shooting ability and ball dominance would make him a questionable fit next to James, of course. These are two of the most ball-dominant players in the league, and we saw how poorly Westbrook fit next to James Harden in a similar arrangement a couple of years ago in Houston. At this point, a point guard capable of facilitating the offense and knocking down open threes would be a better fit for the Lakers’ offense than Westbrook.

We’ve seen some wild trades involving big-name players in recent years, so I can’t entirely rule out the idea of this kind of deal coming down the pike. Westbrook joining the Lakers would almost certainly end in disaster, but common sense isn’t necessarily a common trait in many NBA front offices. Westbrook at +400 to join the Lakers this summer is a better bet than the next guy on the list.

Chris Paul (+500)

Of course the Lakers want Chris Paul. At this point, any team that wouldn’t have an interest in Chris Paul is lying to themselves. Paul just led the Suns to an unlikely berth in the NBA Finals, and you can argue that this is the highest his individual stock has been at any point in the last five years. Just two years ago, the Rockets parted ways with a bounty of first-round picks just to rid themselves of CP3’s contract.

In the two years since he has re-established his place among the NBA’s great point guards. While he may be tempted by the idea of joining his good buddy LeBron with the Lakers in search of his first championship ring, CP3 would have to sacrifice quite a bit of money to make that happen.

Paul has a player option for next season that will pay him over $44 million. Nobody in their right minds would willingly forego $44 million, especially considering Paul can opt into that money to rejoin the reigning Western Conference champions. Taking a 75 percent pay cut to sign with the Lakers would likely make LA the championship favorite, but that ain’t worth passing on $44 million.

The most likely outcome here is that Paul will opt into his deal to run it back with the Suns before signing an extension to stay right where he is. Phoenix was two games away from a championship, and he’ll make far more money by staying than leaving. It’s in the best interests of both parties for Paul to stay in Arizona, and that’s exactly what he’ll do. Fade Paul at +500 to team up with LeBron this offseason.

Avery Bradley (+600)

Avery Bradley won a ring with the Lakers two years ago despite opting out of participating in the NBA bubble over virus concerns. He wound up signing with Miami last offseason before finishing the season in Houston after the Victor Oladipo trade. The Rockets have a team option to keep Bradley for about $5 million next season, but there’s no reason for that rebuilding team to keep him.

Bradley could easily return to the Lakers this offseason as a value depth signing, but he is, by no means, a solution to the team’s point guard conundrum. Given his history with the team and the Lakers’ likely needs for depth, I think Bradley is an outstanding bet to wind up back in LA, especially given the +600 odds. He’s the kind of player that’s going to just keep signing veteran’s minimum deals to join contenders, and a reunion with the Lakers makes plenty of sense.

Spencer Dinwiddie (+800)

Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a torn ACL early last season that kept him sidelined for much of the campaign. He became a fan favorite in Brooklyn during the lean years, but his role with the team nowadays is questionable at best. Dinwiddie may opt into his player option with Brooklyn this summer considering he’ll be due $12.3 million if he does. Coming off of the injury, he likely wouldn’t be able to find equal value on the market.

Of course, the Nets should look to trade him given the fact that James Harden and Kyrie Irving are now holding down the guard spots. Dinwiddie is more of a luxury than a necessity, so don’t be surprised if you hear his name start to swirl in trade talks. Dinwiddie reportedly has interest in signing a bigger deal on the open market, but he’d have to take less in order to latch on with the Lakers.

Dinwiddie is awfully comparable to Schroder considering he’s more of a scorer than a distributor at the point guard spot. The Lakers can go over the cap with Schroder because they hold his Bird rights. If Dinwiddie surprisingly opts out of his deal with the Nets, he reportedly wants $20 million to sign somewhere. The Lakers can’t offer that to anyone other than Schroder to begin with.

Pass.

Ish Smith (+1000)

Ish Smith is another bargain bin option for the Lakers if they get desperate. Smith has turned himself into a solid pro after bouncing around the league for a while, and he’ll be a free agent after banking $6 million in a backup role for the Wizards last year. Smith won’t do much to solve the Lakers’ shooting needs, though, as he’s more of a slashing, distributing type of point guard.

Smith would be a fine option for depth, but he surely won’t be the team’s first call.

Raul Neto (+1100)

Neto, another backup for Washington last season, may make more sense. This is another veteran that likely shouldn’t be a starting option for a title contender, but he’s 29 and has shown much more shooting ability than Smith. Neto canned 39 percent of his threes for the Wiz a season ago, and he’s a career 38.2 percent shooter from downtown.

In terms of fit, Neto looks like a better option for the Lakers than Smith. So, take the extra value on Neto at +1100 if you’re shopping in this price range.

Devonte’ Graham (+1200)

The Hornets have a bevy of guards on the roster between LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Devonte’ Graham. Ball is the future of the franchise, which makes one of Rozier of Graham expendable in the short term. Graham, who spent most of last season coming off the bench, looks to be the least likely of the three to stick around in the long haul.

Graham is a career 36 percent shooter from three-point range across three pro seasons. He has shown the ability to run and offense with usefulness as a spot-up shooter, which is exactly what LA needs. He’ll hit restricted free agency this summer, too. The Hornets can match any offer, but he’ll be free to shop around.

A sign-and-trade scenario involving Montrezl Harrell going the other way makes sense for both sides. Harrell is of limited use to the Lakers, but the Hornets could use some depth in the frontcourt. I like this enough to suggest that taking a flier on Graham winding up in LA at +1200 looks like a pretty good value bet. This fake trade would benefit all involved, and Graham would be a very solid, cheap solution to the Lakers’ backcourt issue.

Mike Conley (+1400)

Utah is running it back next season, and Mike Conley isn’t winding up on a fellow contender. Next?

Cam Payne (+1600)

Cam Payne restored his value in the league playing impressive minutes as a high-usage backup to Paul on the Western Conference champs. He stands to earn more than the $1.9 million he made last season in Phoenix, but I’m not sure the Suns will be eager to let him walk. Payne is a possibility for the Lakers, but not a particularly likely one.

Langston Galloway (+2000)

Langston Galloway couldn’t even crack the rotation for the Suns, so I doubt he’ll be of much interest to the Lakers when he hits free agency. No, thanks.

What’s the Best Bet for the Lakers?

While the Lakers won’t have a ton of flexibility this summer, there are still a few ways Pelinka can try and upgrade the roster around LeBron and AD. Re-signing Schroder still looks like the most likely outcome, but the team will have to get creative if Schroder leaves for greener pastures.

There is reason to believe that a partnership with Rose would make sense for both parties, so taking a flier on the former MVP to wind up in LA looks pretty appealing at the current +300 odds listed at online sportsbooks. Bradley, Mills, and Neto are potential backup options, while a trade for Graham or Westbrook is very much in play.

I’d rank the following as the best bets to wind up with the Lakers this offseason:

  1. Derrick Rose (+300)
  2. Devonte’ Graham (+1100)
  3. Avery Bradley (+600)
  4. Raul Neto (+1100)
  5. Russell Westbrook (+400)
Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...

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