Lakers Rumors: Russell Westbrook to LA in Free Agency; Lakers Executives Confident No Trade is Necessary
The Russell Westbrook trade rumors are pouring in with the earliest reports about the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves in the West found here and the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat here right after Kevin Durant left for the Golden State Warriors.
The different variations of those rumors continued as the week went and there will be more speculation. However, this early, one favored team is likely to bow out.
The LA Lakers are the pundits’ pre-emptive favorites to win the sweepstakes primarily because they have young talent and they are projected to be the team with the best chance to re-sign the former UCLA standout. It is for the latter reason that the team is not trading for Westbrook as stated by ESPN’s Chris Broussard (h/t Bleacher Report).
“The Lakers think they can sign (Westbrook),” Broussard said. “I was talking to some people, some executives yesterday about possible trades they might do, or offer, and I was told they think they can sign him as a free agent. So, why should they give up anything?”
The optimistic stance towards free agency is typical of the Lakers but with their signing record for the past three years, this may seem like irrational confidence. Westbrook would not be the first free agent that the Lakers would target with deep LA roots. DeMar DeRozan grew up cheering for the Lakers and went to USC, but he didn’t even bat an eyelash to stay with the Raptors. But the Raptors are a team in the East on the upswing, the Thunder just lost the face of the team and created a juggernaut in the process.
Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report cited that a trade would be necessary because of the Bird Rights which enables the team to offer the most money and also, the chance to develop familiarity with the organization. These were advantages of the Thunder, but also apply to the team that trades for him.
Nevertheless, Harrison Faigen of Lakers’ team site Silver Screen And Roll stated that this is exactly the right move for the team. If they trade D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram for Westbrook, the team will be short on talent and would not even make the playoffs, even with Westbrook. That would guarantee Westbrook’s departure and the Lakers would be left with nothing.
What the team should do now is concentrate on developing the young talent under Luke Walton and present themselves as a viable destination for Westbrook-and eventually, other free agents in the future.