Multiple reports on Tuesday claimed that the Los Angeles Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook has finally opted for his $47.1M player option. He hopes to return to the franchise for the 2022-23 season. The news came as no surprise as no team would have been willing to pay Russell so much money in free agency after failing to impress the Lakers during his first stint.
With the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the roster, the Lakers still failed to make it to the playoffs. They finished with an embarrassing 33-49 record in the no. 11 seed. Hence, the nine-time All-Star decided to exercise his player option as he heads to the final year of his five-year, $207m contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook has played for four different franchises as a part of the deal after averaging a triple-double in his final three seasons for Oklahoma. In 2019, the 33-year-old was traded to Houston Rockets before moving to Washington in 2020 and finally ending with the Lakers in 2021. However, things did not work out as LA would have imagined by acquiring Westbrook. The point guard averaged 18.5 points with 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game in 78 games.
Due to a series of injuries to Davis and LeBron James, the trio could only play 21 games together with a disappointing record of 11-10. The 2021 points average was Russell’s lowest since 2009-10, and he shot 29.8% of three-pointers from beyond the arc. In addition, he is ranked 251st out of 278 players who took at least a hundred shots from the outside. While the Lakers might have a strategy to use Westbrook next season, they are still looking to trade Westbrook.
Lakers Still Want To Trade Westbrook
As per the Athletic, while Westbrook opted for a player option, the Lakers still want to trade Westbrook. LA is worried about concerns like Westbrook’s declining play. Not just that, his chemistry with LeBron & AD, and his willingness to adapt to team roles as he heads into his 16h NBA season. Therefore, with the Kyrie-Westbrook deal off the table, the Lakers are looking to find Russell a new home.
Moreover, the Lakers’ front office claimed for weeks that Westbrook would be a Laker at the start of training camp. However, that could change if the Lakers find a team willing to take on Westbrook’s expiring contract without demanding a future draft pick. Hence, it would be interesting to see if the Lakers pull off a surprising trade.