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The Los Angeles Lakers would probably love a do-over on the Russell Westbrook trade right about now. They are a disappointing 22-23 through 45 games due in large part to Westbrook’s disappointing season, and on Wednesday, he was benched for the final 3:52 of their loss to the Indiana Pacers. With the trade deadline approaching, the Lakers would happily listen to offers for their declining point guard, but very few teams even have the necessary matching salary to make a deal feasible. Fewer would be interested in acquiring a 33-year-old with declining athleticism and no 3-point shot.
But there is one team that is open to acquiring Westbrook, according to Marc Stein, and it’s a team he’s pretty familiar with: the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are uniquely positioned to make a Westbrook trade because they employ a player that was already traded for Westbrook once before: John Wall. Wall and Westbrook have identical contracts. Both are making roughly $44 million this season and have player options for roughly $47 million next season. Wall hasn’t played at all for Houston this season, so it’s not as though Houston would be losing much in swapping him for Westbrook. It would, in essence, boil down to trading one veteran they aren’t using for another.
But that doesn’t mean the Rockets are going to do the Lakers any favors. According to Stein, they are seeking a hefty price: the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick. That is the next available first-round pick the Lakers can trade due to restrictions involving the Stepien Rule and all of the first-rounders they gave away in the Anthony Davis deal. No current player on the Laker roster is under contract until 2027, meaning that pick could potentially be quite valuable. LeBron James will turn 43 in 2027 and will presumably be out of the NBA.
The Lakers would, obviously, prefer to give up lesser assets. They have multiple second-round picks they can put on the table, but for now, Houston is reportedly seeking a better package. It isn’t fully clear which side would have more leverage. The Lakers are the team desperate to win in the short term, but the Rockets are the team risking what essentially amounts to free second-round picks by demanding more. After all, they presumably would treat Westbrook as they are treating Wall right now: like an expensive veteran not actually playing for them. All things being equal, getting free picks is always preferable.
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It isn’t clear how much the Lakers would value Wall over Westbrook at this stage, if at all. Wall has played just 40 games over the past three seasons, and he didn’t look great when he took the court for Houston a year ago. He was never a great shooter either, though, at his peak, he was an All-Defense-caliber player at guard. The Lakers would essentially be trading for a mystery box.
Further complicating matters is how little the Lakers have to move in other deals. That 2027 pick, along with Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn, are essentially their only trade assets at the moment. They have offered that trio to Detroit for Jerami Grant, according to Stein, but for now, that deal appears unlikely. In a perfect world, they would probably prefer to use that pick in another deal and then make the Westbrook-for-Wall swap using lesser assets. If that isn’t available to them, they’ll have a difficult decision to make.
If nothing else, this indicates that the Lakers have options. Westbrook has been called the NBA’s most untradeable contract for years. He’s also been traded three times since 2019. There’s always a deal to be made in the modern NBA. The Lakers just have to decide if this one is worth the heavy price it would take.