The 2020/21 NBA season proved to be a disappointing one overall for the Los Angeles Lakers, as the defending champions were beaten in the first round of the Playoffs by the eventual Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns.
Injuries plagued the Lakers as LeBron James entered the postseason at less than 100%, while Anthony Davis suffered a groin injury while the team were 2-1 up in the series and ahead by double figures in game 4 against the Suns that derailed their hopes.
However, the Lakers are still expected to retool in the attempt of getting the most out of what is left of LeBron James’ prime, with the four-time NBA Champion, MVP and Finals MVP turning 37 in December.
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It seems the entire Lakers roster outside of James and Davis is available for trade, though the Lakers’ cap space situation means they have little room for maneuver when it comes to signing free agents.
Instead, General Manager Rob Pelinka will have to get creative and sign-and-trade deals appear most likely. They will almost certainly try to move point guard Dennis Schroder in any such deal after he turned down a four-year $84m contract extension in search of a bigger deal that they could use in a sign-and-trade.
One player who is being heavily touted with a trade to the Lakers is Washington Wizards point guard and Los Angeles native Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has two years and $91m left on his contract – the second year being a $47m player option that he is expected to pick up – and the Wizards also have star guard Bradley Beal entering the final year of his guaranteed deal.
With both players able to become free agents next summer if they wish, the Wizards could trade both for multiple assets now while they still can and commit to a rebuild. Discussions for a Westbrook deal have included Schroder, Kyle Kuzma and one of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Montrezl Harrell, as well as draft compensation.
Westbrook averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for the Wizards last season, with it being the fourth time in the last five seasons that the 32-year-old has averaged a triple double for the entire regular season.
One big question surrounding the fit of Westbrook on the Lakers is the potential lack of spacing when he, James and Davis are on the floor together, with the rest of the roster needing additional perimeter shooters to compliment their big three.
However, Westbrook would only add to the Lakers’ terrific abilities in transition and would crucially take a huge load off of LeBron when it comes to playmaking and ball-handling. The Lakers regularly struggled on offense when James wasn’t on the floor and Westbrook is one of the best passers and playmakers in the league.
There has also been talk of James wanting to play off the ball more next season with he and Davis playing more at the power forward and center positions respectively. Westbrook would be a more than willing alternative to James in running the Lakers offense, giving him crucial time to rest.
Whether the Lakers can pull off a trade for Westbrook or not, it seems clear that their roster will look very different come tip-off on opening night.