With Kyrie Irving no longer an option, the Los Angeles Lakers must explore other trade avenues if they hope to part ways with Russell Westbrook before the season begins.
The New York Knicks have always been a team linked to Westbrook, and while the relation may be more speculative than legitimate, it has resulted in some hypothetical trade proposals that send Westbrook out East.
One of these trade proposals includes New York Knicks forward, and former Lakers draftee, Julius Randle. After a breakout season in 2021, Randle has struggled to regain form. With $117 million left on his contract, averaging over $29 million annually, moving Randle may be something the Knicks might consider.
Taking back just the one remaining year on Westbrook’s contract would be an efficient way to do that; however, according to a recent report from The Athletic’s Jovan Buha, such a deal is of no interest to the Lakers.
“The Lakers aren’t interested in taking back Julius Randle from the Knicks, considering his contract (three years plus a player option on the fourth year) and less-than-ideal fit with Davis and James,” Buha wrote.
How desperate is LA?
Having now locked up LeBron James for two more seasons, the Lakers can operate without the imminent possibility of losing their franchise star. That said, there has been intentional dialogue between James and the Lakers that indicates the team will do all they can to improve their trajectory. That reportedly includes the use of their two future first-round picks in potential trades.
While this increased level of adamance is important for the Lakers to regain their winning ways, how far is too far? Parting ways with Westbrook seems to be an essential element in regaining form; however, with no current takers on the market, some level of sacrifice will have to prevail in order for the Lakers to deal their veteran point guard.
All of this considered, the Lakers are currently wise to stay away from Julius Randle. The one-time All-Star is a fine player, but his contract presents even more issues than Westbrook’s does, and his fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis is equally as questionable. The team would be better off riding out Westbrook’s final year than trading it for four more years of guaranteed money for Julius Randle.
Lesser of two evils
As previously alluded to, the Westbrook problem is much less drastic now than it was last season. This may sound outlandish, considering how bad things have gotten, but it is simply a numbers game at this point.
Westbrook’s contract will come off the books after this season, meaning that even if the Lakers fail to move him, they can recalibrate next summer with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis locked in contractually.
While punting another season is of no interest to anybody in the Lakers organization, attempting to salvage this year with Westbrook would be the lesser of two evils when compared to taking on Randle’s contract, or one similar.
There is hope within the organization that Westbrook can adapt to a lesser role, and while history indicates reason for pessimism when it comes to such a development actually occurring, it may be the team’s only viable option at this point.