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If the Los Angeles Lakers want to trade Russell Westbrook, they are going to have to sweeten the deal for a team to take on the former NBA MVP’s massive salary next season.
Per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, opposing teams “have been demanding” the Lakers include at least one first-round draft pick in order to take on the final year of Westbrook’s contract.
Buha noted the Lakers, as of now, “have no intention” of including a first-round pick to facilitate a Westbrook trade.
It’s been an open secret for months that it would probably take a first-round pick for another team to acquire Westbrook.
Prior to the trade deadline on Feb. 10, there were reports that the Lakers and Houston Rockets were talking about a swap of Westbrook for John Wall.
Per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, those talks stalled out because the Lakers refused to include a first-round draft pick in the trade.
Wall didn’t appear in a game this season over differences with the Rockets about his role on the team. The 31-year-old stands out on Houston’s roster because of where the organization is at in its rebuild, but no deals have materialized for him.
The Lakers can currently only trade their first-round picks in 2027 or 2028 due to other deals they have made. If they wait until after the 2022 draft to make a move, they can also include their 2029 first-rounder in a potential trade.
Given how badly things went for the Lakers this season, and how poor Westbrook’s fit with their roster turned out to be, it might seem like moving him would be a given. The franchise is still trying to maximize what’s left of LeBron James’ prime and keep Anthony Davis healthy.
According to Buha, there is “sentiment” among some people in the Lakers front office that the right head coach and a better supporting cast can “smooth over Westbrook’s awkward fit with James and Davis.”
Westbrook, who has a $47.1 million player option for next season, had his lowest scoring average (18.5 points per game) since 2009-10 in his first year with the Lakers. The nine-time All-Star shot under 30 percent from three-point range for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
The Lakers missed the playoffs with a 33-49 record. They have finished under .500 seven times in the past nine seasons.