The Los Angeles Lakers will be a better basketball team next season if they trade Russell Westbrook, that is not a stretch to say. The problem is that Westbrook doesn’t have much value and the team would have to trade a first-round pick to move off of him, which is something they reportedly don’t want to do.
There is the possibility of the Lakers using Westbrook’s contract in a three-team trade to get Kyrie Irving to LA via a sign and trade. That is absolutely the best-case scenario with Kyrie and the Nets being at an impasse. However, Kyrie would have to essentially force his way to Los Angeles and he already forced his way out of being LeBron’s teammate once.
The other potential trade that has been floated around is a salary-dump trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who need to free up contract space to retain Miles Bridges this summer and eventually give LaMelo Ball a new contract. Charlotte reportedly has a legitimate interest in Westbrook for that reason.
However, the cost always seemed to be a first-round pick for the Lakers, which just doesn’t make much sense for the team. Recent reports indicate that might not be the case, though, and the Lakers might be able to pull this off for much cheaper. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Hornets are the team looking to trade a first-round pick to get off of Gordon Hayward’s deal.
How this new price could impact the Los Angeles Lakers trading Russell Westbrook to the Charlotte Hornets:
It is an interesting situation as the Hornets are looking to free up money to retain Bridges this offseason. While Westbrook gives the Hornets long-term flexibility as an expiring deal, he actually adds more money to their books for next season.
Charlotte does have Bird Rights on Bridges, who is a restricted free agent, and if they denounce all of their cap holds this offseason they will have $ 14.89 million in cap space, per Spotrac. At it stands right now, the Hornets are still just $ 39.9 million under the luxury tax, so the team is going to be able to afford Bridges, a Nontaxpayer MLE and Westbrook in this trade and stay under the tax.
They might not get the instant relief that they are looking for but they would get the long-term relief of getting an expiring contract. Plus, Russell Westbrook sells tickets and if he is a disastrous fit next to LaMelo then the Hornets can just save even more money and buy him out.
Since the Hornets are willing to trade a first to get off of Hayward, the Lakers might be able to get away with trading Westbrook away without giving up a pick at all. At the very most, the Lakers might be able to trade a future pick swap, which with a team like Charlotte, is perfectly fine.
Terry Rozier probably won’t be in the deal if the Lakers aren’t sending a first-round pick but that’s fine. Charlotte can package either Kelly Oubre or Mason Plumlee with Hayward in a potential deal for Westbrook. With Oubre, the Hornets would be taking on $ 4.3 million more next season (with the long-term savings). With Plumlee, that number is $ 7.9 million.
Heck, Charlotte could even include both players and save $ 4.6 million next season if they really wanted to. That still works for the Los Angeles Lakers, and without having to trade a first, is not a bad deal in the slightest.