As expected, given the finances at stake, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook will exercise the $47.1 million option on the final year of his contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Westbrook’s deal has been a depreciating asset since he signed it in the months following his 2017 NBA MVP campaign with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The nine-time All-Star has been traded to the Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards and Lakers over the past three years. The 33-year-old’s career-best averages of 31.6 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds per game fell to 19-7-7 for the 11th-place Lakers last season.
The Lakers also spent much of the last year trying to find a business partner for Westbrook’s massive contract, to no avail. They’ll continue to shop his deal now that it expires, but tying up future first-round picks complicates the problem of finding teams that can match that much pay in a trade. The Lakers want value in exchange for Westbrook, and that may be impossible to find for a $47 million replacement-level player.
Westbrook has won just one playoff series in five appearances since his partnership with Kevin Durant ended in Oklahoma City in 2016. Westbrook’s high-use, low-efficiency brand of basketball has produced only a mediocre record at the alongside James Harden, Bradley Beal and LeBron James over the past three seasons, leading to questions about where he might find success as he enters his thirties.
Westbrook’s contributions to the Lakers’ disappointing 2021-22 season played a part in the sacking of Frank Vogel, who coached James and Anthony Davis to a championship in 2020. Westbrook attended the introductory press conference for the new Lakers coach Darvin Ham earlier this month, and Ham repaid the respect publicly.
“Russ is one of the best players our league has ever seen and there’s still a ton left in that tank,” Ham said, even as he asked Westbrook to “sacrifice” his game. not why people tend to try to write it off.”
Ham stressed the need for Westbrook to contribute defensively and hinted at the possibility of bringing him off the bench. Westbrook’s inability to do the first and/or reluctance to do the second could potentially create similar friction for Ham to what Vogel experienced when trying to curb the influence of a former MVP.
The freedom to be the player Westbrook still believes he is wasn’t worth giving up $47.1 million and testing the free agent market to see if another team would be willing to let him cook for a good salary. inferior. The Lakers and Westbrook made their bed in last summer’s blockbuster trade, and now they must stay in it for one more season unless a miracle trade partner shows up before his contract expires.