However, sources tell The Athletic that Westbrook’s role might change, with the team “strongly” considering having the former league MVP come off the bench in 2022/23. New head coach Darvin Ham has the “full backing” of the organization to determine lineups for the upcoming season, and Westbrook will have to outperform his new teammates during minicamp, training camp and the preseason to remain the Lakers’ starting point guard, Buha and Amick write.
Unless the Lakers can find a trade that they believe makes them a legitimate title contender, Westbrook is “highly likely” to stay on the roster, sources tell The Athletic.
A major part of that line of thinking is the Lakers want to keep their financial and trade options open for ’23/24, when they project to have $30MM+ in cap room for free agency, per Buha and Amick. Westbrook is on an expiring contract worth $47.1MM, and the Lakers have been reluctant to trade their 2027 and/or 2029 first-round picks to offload him.
Here’s more on the Lakers:
- Los Angeles is banking on Ham being able to optimize Westbrook’s talent — and get through to him in a way that Frank Vogel couldn’t — as well as a return to health for Anthony Davis in order for the ’22/23 season to be successful, sources tell Buha and Amick.
- According to Buha and Amick, the Lakers discussed a four-team trade with the Jazz, Knicks and Hornets prior to Donovan Mitchell being dealt to Cleveland, with an early framework sending Bojan Bogdanovic and Terry Rozier to L.A.
- Los Angeles continues to show interest in Bogdanovic, with The Athletic’s duo reporting that Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley have been included in recent talks with Utah for Westbrook. However, a deal is considered unlikely because of the aforementioned reasons — the Lakers don’t want to part with first-rounders and Clarkson has a $14.3MM player option for ’23/24 that would eat into the team’s potential cap room.
- Along the same lines, Buha and Amick write that dealing Westbrook to the Pacers for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, which has been rumored multiple times, is also “not expected” — Hield has a $19.3MM cap hit in ’23/24.
- Schröder made an Instagram post expressing his excitement about returning to the Lakers, saying that he wanted to “make s*** right!” Schröder’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, tells Mark Medina of NBA.com (Twitter link) that the team informed Schröder that “there will be a lot of minutes for everybody” despite a crowded backcourt.