Los Angeles Lakers PG Russell Westbrook has opted into his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season, per multiple reports. This isn’t anything unexpected. Would you turn down a player option worth that much? Didn’t think so. Anyway, the Lakers will likely still explore trade options involving Westbrook this offseason. There’s also a chance Darvin Ham wants to keep the core of Westbrook, LeBron and Anthony Davis together and see if he can fix things.
LeBron is signed through 2022-23 and then becomes a free agent again. AD is signed through 2024-25, the final year being a player option, so he can opt out after 2023-24. There’s no doubt the Lakers want to go all-in and make a run at a title while LeBron remains. It’s unclear if he’ll stay past this upcoming season. If the feeling is LeBron will bolt again, the Lakers could start selling off Westbrook and AD to recoup some assets for a rebuild.
If the Lakers can get rid of Westbrook, they have much more cap flexibility to build a better roster for 2022-23. James, AD, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel would be the only players under contract heading into the season. Los Angeles would lack assets, but would have plenty of money to throw around. The free agent class isn’t loaded. We still could see Bradley Beal out there if he opts out of his deal with the Wizards. Same goes for James Harden in Philly.
There’s also the prospect of offer sheeting a RFA in Deandre Ayton or Miles Bridges. That could secure a future building block for post-LeBron, a player you can pair with AD for a few seasons to stay competitive.
Westbrook can’t feel too secure about his position with the Lakers, even after opting into his massive contract for this season. LA is operating on James’ timeline and clearly, this past season didn’t go as planned. The aging point guard didn’t fit with James and Anthony Davis when all three shared the floor. He refused to adapt or change his approach, which is why many feel Westbrook will be gone during the summer. The Lakers have tried to convince the league they’re willing to keep him but it’s hard to see it happening in reality.
Westbrook didn’t have a bad campaign statistically, averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game in 78 contests. However, he refused to cut down on three-point attempts and failed to play consistent defense. At his current price point, he’s no longer the star he once was and that’s a problem for the Lakers.