Lakers have ‘optics concerns’ about trading Russell Westbrook, won’t include 2027 first-round pick, per report

Russell Westbrook’s experience with the Lakers was unsuccessful. This sentence, in some adjective, has been written countless times by countless niches. At this point, if there was a palatable way for the Lakers to get rid of Westbrook, they would. But so far, the only trade that seems reasonable halfway through is replacing Westbrook with John Wall.

There are myriad concerns about this potential deal, chief among them the possibility that Wall could be as bad for the Lakers as Westbrook. They are similar players with similar problematic holes in their games to serve as an effective source of floor spacing, and the surround game industry alongside LeBron James.

Besides, the Rockets want more of Westbrook versus Wall. They want to pick the Lakers in the first round of 2027 as a tax on Westbrook, which, according to NBA insider Mark Stein, the Lakers are not willing to give up in favor of Wall.

A couple of reasons for this. First, the Lakers want to keep this commercial chip for potential use in a player deal that dramatically raises tournament odds, which he doesn’t think Wall is doing. Second, there is a lot of ego involved here. It wouldn’t be a pleasing look for a front desk that gave up so much Westbrook in the first place to turn around and give it up for little.

From Stein’s newsletter:

However, there are also major optics concerns for the Lakers. Sources say team officials didn’t want to pay a premium to move from Westbrook shortly after the Lakers gave up too much for the Los Angeles native. Remember: They had to send Kyle Kuzma, Quintavius ​​Caldwell Bob, Montrezel Harrell and the 22nd pick in last July’s draft to Washington after James and Davis encouraged the Lakers front office to go ahead with Westbrook rather than go ahead with GM Rob Pelinka plans to trade for Buddy Hield in Sacramento.

Barring the emergence of an expanded commercial build that includes three or more teams, or allows a Westbrook-for-Wall exchange without including the valuable draft pick, sources say, Los Angeles’ clear preference is to rely on Westbrook to find another tool in the second half as it did with the Wizards last season. Likewise, we should note in fairness that the Lakers, who on Wednesday woke up eighth in the West at 24-24, enjoyed James, Davis and Westbrook in good health and in uniform together in only 16 of those 48 games.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne quoted a team source as saying on Tuesday that giving the Lakers’ new trio of stars a full season runway to find a collective foothold “is the only option.”

To make the obvious: The Lakers would have been better off had they traded for Hield, or even simply kept KCP and Kuzma, than they are with Westbrook – which means nothing about their Alex Caruso licenses in large part of the money they built into Westbrook (on Although they still managed to push Caruso).

Now, you can understand that the Lakers don’t want to give up their first player in 2027, especially for Wall, who probably won’t change his outlook any more than Westbrook (although I think Wall would be better for them).

But making it self-contained, and not wanting to admit a trading blunder in Westbrook’s favour in the first place by paying tax to get rid of it (if they really had that opportunity), is the wrong move.

You see this in professional sports all the time. The team will stay with the player longer than they should just because they gave that player more money than they should, compounding their error rather than reducing losses. If the Lakers, in any way, think Wall can help them more than Westbrook, and there are no other deals out there, they need to think hard about the move.

Because you’re not wasting LeBron’s years at this point, especially with the way he’s been playing this season. Making a Westbrook trade was a bad idea all along. Everyone except the Lakers knew it. If there is a way out of it, they have to. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it, so the Lakers are back to closing their eyes in hopes of turning Westbrook into a different player than he has been for the past half decade.

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