The Los Angeles Lakers offseason has revolved around the question of whether or not the Lakers will trade point guard Russell Westbrook before the 2022-23 season. Westbrook's first season with the Lakers was an unequivocal failure, and the Lakers have been trying to find a way to get rid of him before the upcoming season. So far, though, their efforts have been unsuccessful, and Westbrook is still in L.A. for the time being.
Windhorst believes the Los Angeles Lakers have given up trying to trade Westbrook this offseason
It has seemed like a Westbrook trade was bound to happen for much of the offseason. Westbrook was rumored to be involved in potential blockbuster deals for Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz (how the Cleveland Cavaliers), but he never ended up getting moved. It was reported that the Jazz and Indiana Pacers were interested in Westbrook but would only take him if the Lakers parted with their only two tradeable first-round picks.
When that report surfaced, Westbrook seemed likely to be traded. It appears as though that has changed. ESPN's Brian Windhorst recently mentioned on his podcast that he believes that the Lakers have given up on their efforts to trade Westbrook and will ride out the 2022-23 season with him on their roster in hopes that he can improve his play. This is a sharp u-turn from recent rumors of Westbrook's trade status and could have a massive impact on L.A.'s upcoming campaign.
"Based on the executives I'm talking to, they believe that the Lakers have come to the conclusion that they're not going to trade Westbrook now, because they don't like any of their offers and they're going to try and make the best of it and see what happens." - Brian Windhorst, Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective
Why would the Lakers want to hold onto Russell Westbrook?
It made all the sense in the world for the Lakers to look into trading Westbrook this offseason after how bad he was last season. Westbrook was horrible on offense, and his defensive game took a step back too. Los Angeles has championship aspirations, and with Westbrook on their roster, it's tough to see them being able to make a championship run, especially if Westbrook plays as badly as he did last season.
The problem is that if the Lakers were to trade Westbrook, they would have to give up their two remaining tradeable first-round draft picks. That would all but prevent Los Angeles from making any significant moves in the future. Westbrook is also entering the last year of his contract. Even though he's due to earn a massive $47.063 million salary, the cost of holding onto for one more season may outweigh the damage that could come from getting rid of their only remaining tradeable draft assets.
For the 2022-23 Lakers, this isn't a great sign. They upgraded their rotation this offseason, but as long as Westbrook is on the court, he will command the ball. Given his massive salary, they can't afford to fully bench him if he struggles, so it puts them in the same bind as last season. Westbrook could have a bounce-back season, but if he doesn't, the Lakers will find themselves in the same predicament they were in last season.