Lakers mulling Russell Westbrook trade for Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Schroder and Talen Horton-Tucker, per report
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers may have taken an early summer break this season, with James losing in the first round for the first time in his career, but they fully expect to be back in the championship mix in 2021-22. There’s an argument to be made that all they need for this to happen is a healthy James and Anthony Davis come playoff time, but the Lakers don’t want to rest on their 2020 laurels and will be looking for whatever upgrades they find this summer.
Their options are limited. James and Davis are set to make $76.5 million on their own. The projected salary cap is $112 million, which the Lakers blow past before even factoring in their first-round pick (No. 22 overall) or their own free agents — Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, Andre Drummond, Markieff Morris, Wesley Matthews, Ben McLemore and Montrezl Harrell, who has a $9.7 million player option.
Regardless of who the Lakers do or don’t re-sign, they will likely have two routes to bring in outside help. First, they will have the taxpayer mid-level exception, which should be somewhere just south of $6 million. Second, they can make a trade. To the latter option, check this out from Marc Spears of The Undefeated:
According to sources, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers have been on the hunt for veteran point guard, and [Chris] Paul is on the list. There have also been talks about Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook being a potential candidate to move back home to Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade deal that could include free agent point guard Dennis Schroder, forward Kyle Kuzma and guard Talen Horton-Tucker, sources said.
Our Sam Quinn outlined here why Paul, who has a $44.2 million player option for next season, is almost certainly out of the Lakers’ price range even if they were somehow able to trade every player on their roster other than James and Davis to clear their maximum amount of cap space. If Paul opted out and signed a multi-year extension with Phoenix, the Lakers would have to work a sign-and-trade to get him, which would hard cap the Lakers, who would then barely be able to fill out their roster.
With Westbrook it’s different. He’s already under contract with Washington. If the Lakers sign and trade Schroder, it’s the Wizards who would be hard-capped, not the Lakers. Westbrook is set to make $44.2 million next season. Let’s say Schroder signs for $15 million annually, or in that range. Add Kuzma and KCP, who make $13 million each, and the money works.
Whether Westbrook is a good fit on the Lakers is another story. You’ll find varying opinions on that front. The Lakers do want a playmaker to take pressure off James (this was supposed to be Schroder’s value, but that didn’t quite work out as planned), but again the Lakers would be compromising shooting with Westbrook.
Personally, I don’t see the appeal. I don’t see Westbrook as a guy who’s going to be central to a championship run anymore. But hey, next to LeBron and Davis, if Westbrook would take a step back and play only to his strengths and commit defensively, you could see how a Lakers team with limited options for significant improvement would be intrigued.