An early end to the season for the Lakers means months-long unending trade and offseason rumors around their roster and management.
Days after the Pheonix Suns crushed Los Angeles' chance of making the play-in tournament, there's already been chatter on where Russell Westbrook could end up next season. According to NBA veteran reporter Marc Stein, there are three likely options on the table.
The Lakers and Rockets are expected to revisit a Russell Westbrook for John Wall swap
During the previous trade deadline, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka had a choice of swapping Westbrook along with the team's 2027 first-round pick for John Wall. This trade will likely be brought up again just because Westbrook and Wall make the same money of $47 million next year, thus making the exchange more feasible. The Lakers will have to decide once again in the summer if they want to gamble on an injury-prone player in Wall (who is also a notable Klutch client) by giving up their future assets.
On another note, the Lakers' trade deadline talks reportedly created massive tension between LeBron James and Westbrook last February. According to Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus, Westbrook didn't like that James was vouching for the Lakers to trade him for Wall. This storyline is worth following as it could likely lead to Westbrook's departure from Los Angeles this summer.
The Charlotte Hornets might offer a better package.
According to Stein, league rivals believe that the Hornets (whose general manager is Michael Jordan) could be interested in Westbrook (a Jordan brand athlete). After all, the Hornets are trying to gain financial flexibility by laying off from their long-term contracts with Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Kelly Oubre. Note that Charlotte has to at least match $38 million for Westbrook's salary.
The goal for the Hornets is to retain Miles Bridges and extend their rising superstar LaMelo Ball's contract, which they can't do right now with all their active contracts on the roster. Trading for Westbrook, who will be on the last year of his contract next season, could help them lay off those long-term deals.
Waive-and-stretch provisions are not out of the picture.
If all else fails, the Lakers can waive Westbrook and stretch his contract for the next three years — precisely what they did with Luol Deng's $72 million contract that is still on their books today. The Lakers' advantage from stretching Westbrook's contract is that they will have enough cap space to sign Malik Monk, which is reportedly under consideration.
Another answer that the Lakers will be waiting for is if James will extend with the team or not. If The King commits to another two-year (which can also be a one-plus-one deal) extension, then there's a good chance that the Lakers will give up their first-round picks to maximize James' remaining years in Los Angeles.
If L.A. receives James' commitment, then the Lakers' package with Westbrook and their picks will likely draw more suitors around the league.