Despite their efforts to salvage Russell Westbrook’s last season under contract, it remains no secret that the Los Angeles Lakers would prefer to trade their veteran point guard before the season begins.
The Lakers have so far failed to complete one of the several potential deals on the table, but now, one of the more obvious suitors seems to have resurfaced.
The Utah Jazz have reportedly reengaged with the Lakers on Westbrook, per The Athletic’s Tony Jones. Having dealt both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert this summer, Utah has cap space and an appetite for draft compensation, which are both needed to take on Westbrook.
If this is the case, what is the holdup? For Utah, much like every other potential Westbrook suitor, they know the urgency in Los Angeles will only grow as the season draws nearer.
Calling LA’s bluff
Reports have consistently emerged indicating the Lakers are comfortable starting the year with Westbrook on the team. We don’t need a trade, seems to be the LA message.
That may not be the truth, though. The Lakers know they have very little leverage when it comes to their mercurial veteran, and understand they will have to depart with at least one future first-round pick in any potential deal.
Other teams know this too, and seem to be calling LA’s bluff for what it is: An attempt to hang onto assets. LA is desperately trying not to give up the other future first-round pick that they have.
If the Lakers can create the perception that they’re comfortable letting Westbrook play out his contract, teams around the league may be more inclined to take LA’s current offer, rather than missing out on an opportunity for free draft compensation.
With Westbrook’s deal set to expire after this season, that is exactly what a team like Utah would be receiving in such a deal.
As of now, that inclination does not seem to exist with teams like the Jazz, as they seemingly disbelieve LA’s current messaging. With training camp now less than two weeks away, this is almost certainly why the Lakers and Jazz have reengaged in trade discussions.
The looming deal
This trade with Utah would send Westbrook to the Jazz in exchange for Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, which is not unlike the framework of a potential Westbrook move to Indiana for Myles Turner and Budy Hield.
The salary lines up, but as is the case in every potential Westbrook deal, the draft compensation is the holdup. Currently willing to send out one future first-rounder, teams like the Jazz believe a second will become available as the team grows more desperate.
While at the expense of two highly valued first-round picks, this deal would make the Lakers a much better basketball team this season.
With Patrick Beverley and Mike Conley manning the backcourt, the Lakers would not only have two players that compliment each other much better than Beverley and Westbrook, they would also have two starting guards that complement LeBron James better. Adding in the shooting of Bojan Bogdanovic, and Los Angeles would be a real threat.
As with any team, health is always a concern, but decisions cannot be made entirely on that premise. If this deal goes through, the Lakers quickly re-enter the conversation out West.