Coming into the offseason, the biggest question in terms of the roster of the Los Angeles Lakers is whether or not point guard Russell Westbrook would remain with the team.
Westbrook’s first season with the franchise did not go as planned with the point guard struggling and the Lakers as a whole dealing with injuries that ultimately saw them fail to qualify for the playoffs.
Westbrook was reportedly shopped at the trade deadline, but no deal materialized and his future with the team was questioned after the season with Westbrook himself unsure of what the summer would hold. But with new head coach Darvin Ham heaping praise upon Westbrook at his introductory press conference, the idea of Westbrook remaining with the team began to seem more like a real possibility.
It sounds as if the Lakers could be fine with that possibility as well as according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the franchise is reportedly operating as if Westbrook will be on the roster next season:
Will health and a coaching change be enough for the Los Angeles Lakers to rebound from a disastrous season? We may find out soon enough as sources close to the team, along with several competing executives, believe the Lakers are operating as if Russell Westbrook will be on the roster to start next season.
There is still plenty of time for things to change on this front as technically the NBA offseason has yet to start and discussions will pick up even more as the NBA Draft and free agency near. But with teams wanting extra compensation in order to take on Westbrook’s contract, or the Lakers needing to take on more long-term money in a potential deal, the front office could view one more season of Westbrook as the better alternative.
The idea of releasing or stretching Westbrook’s contract is likely out the window so a trade would be the only way to move on from the point guard.
With the team just now getting some draft picks back, and more financial flexibility on the horizon next offseason, it makes sense why the team would be wary of sacrificing that in a Westbrook trade. It looks like it will be on Ham, Westbrook, and the rest of the roster to make this fit better than it did last season.
Westbrook expected to opt-in to final year of contract
Of course, technically Westbrook could become an unrestricted free agent this summer as he has a player option for the final year of his contract. But with that being worth $47 million, it is no surprise that Westbrook is expected to officially opt-in to that final year at the end of the month.
Westbrook originally signed this contract in 2017 while still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder and he certainly had earned that deal. Now, the pressure will be on him and the Lakers to improve on what was a disappointing season on all fronts.
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