Give Lakers GM Rob Pelinka credit for at least doing his due diligence on a possible Russell Westbrook trade.
This offseason alone, Pelinka has spoken to no less than five rival teams about Westbrook, multiple league sources told Hoops Wire. So far, though, the Lakers are close on nothing and are starting to suspect that Westbrook will be back for at least the start of the season, sources added.
Westbrook, 33, proved to be a clunky fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis in his first year in LA. The Lakers have been trying to trade him since before the All-Star break in February, though sources indicated they are more determined now than ever.
Part of the reason may be the fact they landed guard Patrick Beverley in a trade with the Jazz last week, making Westbrook even more expendable. But even before Beverley, the Lakers had been trying with all their might to unload Westbrook and his expiring $47.1 million salary.
While those discussions are widely known, two other team executives not mentioned above told Hoops Wire they too have talked to Pelinka about Westbrook since the start of July. Each said he believed, but could not guarantee, the Lakers have also talked to several others beyond those that have been reported, many in recent weeks.
As multiple outlets have suggested, the Lakers have been unwilling to surrender their next two tradeable first-round picks (2027 and ’29) in potential Westbrook deals. By 2027, and almost certainly by 2029, Westbrook and James could be retired, and Davis could be elsewhere. So it makes sense if the Lakers don’t want to mortgage their future on the here-and-now.
That said, the Lakers have always been a here-and-now sort of franchise, and sources think they may eventually break on moving both picks if it means dealing Westbrook for a better fit and immediate help.
Another option is keeping Westbrook at home, much as the Rockets did last season with John Wall, though it doesn’t appear the Lakers are anywhere close to such an arrangement yet.
Instead, they seem more motivated to continue exploring the market, and if that continues to fail, bringing Westbrook back and trying to make it work under new coach Darvin Ham.