Anyone with common basketball knowledge saw the trainwreck building in Los Angeles when they brought in former NBA MVP and walking triple-double, Russell Westbrook. The fit was never there, and it seemed like the Lakers organization was more interested in chasing names than they were quality pieces to build their roster. The floor spacing was always going to be horrible and Westbrook never truly clicked with superstar teammates LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Now fast forward to the present day, and the Lakers and Westbrook find themselves in triple trouble. The two sides look like they are heading for a divorce and that’s the best for both parties.
Westbrook is almost a lock to be dealt at some point, and I highly doubt there’s a single sane person out there who can truly advocate for him to stay in the purple and gold. The Lakers need to rebuild this roster, tear it down and start back up with the same two centerpieces that got them the bubble title, Davis and James. But this is where things get a little complicated. Russell is almost guaranteed to opt-in to his 47-million-dollar option, add that to the horrible season he just had and you have a recipe for tarnished goods. Westbrook becomes a player nobody will take unless they manage to come out as a clear winner.
Now, even with reports of most of the league viewing Westbrook as a negative asset, I believe he is still a quality player who can be a fine #2 on a championship team if put in the correct situation. I believe Charlotte is a fine landing spot for him, and Michael Jordan has already proved to be more than willing to make weird trades that seem to make little sense at the time of the deal. a core of LaMelo Ball, Russell Westbrook, Milea Bridges, and other solid contributors already on their roster may not seem like a championship roster, but it’s a quality playoff team nonetheless.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Now let’s look at some other scenarios, what if the lakers don’t trade him this off-season? That leaves two realistic possibilities, they keep him until the deadline and try to ship him off then in hopes of a team trading for him with a reduced salary for the remainder of the season. ORRR, they can simply hold onto Russell for what will likely be another disappointing season, and be in a much better spot cap space-wise for the following off-season. This especially helps if LeBron James decides to jump ship as well, something he’s proven to be great at, destroying a team and bouncing when things become too difficult. Regardless of what the Lakers do, they are in a sticky situation, and using ESPN’s trade simulator, here are some possible landing spots for the LA point guard.
Russell Westbrook for Gordon Hayward, Mason Plumlee, and James Bouknight
I believe this trade is beneficial for both sides (more so for the Lakers) as Charlotte gets a veteran high-level guard to pair with their young duo of Bridges and Ball, while the Lakers get a much better team fir with Gordon Hayward and a rookie that I am still pretty high on, James Bouknight. The former UConn star guard had a troubled rookie season, struggling to crack former head coach James Borrego’s rotation, but I believe he can become a quality starter in this league, LA could prove to be just the spot for that. According to the Trade simulator, this drops the Lakers expected win total by 2, while not impacting Charlotte in any way.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Russell Westbrook and picks for Julius Randle, Alec Burks, and Kemba Walker
Likely? No. Possible? Yes. If LeGM truly wants to take the reigns and add pieces this could work as the Lakers bring back a familiar face in Julius Randle and add two players who I consider to be solid role players on a great team, Kemba Walker and Alec Burks. The Knicks finally get their big-name off-season addition after continuously striking out and even though I don’t view this as the greatest of fits, it can work assuming the Knicks play their cards right. A core of RJ Barrett, Russell Westbrook, Obi Toppin, Evan Fournier, and AJ Griffin (stay tuned for my upcoming NBA Mock Draft) could be what the Knicks need to reignite some fire in this organization and fanbase.
I want to list other options but I just don’t see any. There are 3 choices: Hornets, Knicks, or just keep him for the remainder of the season and roll in the oncoming cap space that will follow because of it (an option I’d only suggest if they know LeBron is gone too). The moral of the story here is do not let LeBron James run your team into the ground, it will never be worth it