September 26, 2022

The Kyrie Irving trade speculation may have ceased (for now), but that doesn’t mean the Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard drama has come to an end. On Thursday, the Lakers acquired veteran defensive pest Patrick Beverley, leading to speculation about the status of beleaguered nine-time All-Star Russell Westbrook moving forward.

It’s no secret that the Lakers have been looking at trades involving Westbrook for quite some time, with multiple reports saying that potential deals have been squashed due to the Lakers’ unwillingness to include one or both of their available future first-round picks. With Irving off the table, it seemed plausible that the team would enter training camp with Westbrook as their starting point guard. New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has already discussed a new offensive vision for the former MVP that involves shooting more corner 3-pointers.

However, the addition of Beverley reintroduces questions about Westbrook’s future with the Lakers. In fact, with Beverley on the roster, it’s more likely that Westbrook won’t see the court at all for the Lakers in the upcoming season, according to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. Westbrook could either be traded or simply sent away from the team. More from The Athletic:

“Beverley’s arrival makes it more likely that Westbrook will be off the active roster by the start of training camp, either through a trade or the team sending him home a la the Rockets with John Wall last season, according to a source close to the situation.”

Traded, sure. But the John Wall Treatment? That’s a scenario that hasn’t really been raised as a realistic possibility. Beverley is a serviceable starting point guard and will potentially add some grit to a Lakers defense that plummeted from an NBA-best in 2020-21 all the way to 21st last season. Westbrook was one of the worst offensive players in the league last season in terms of efficiency — his 0.844 points per possession were second-to-last for any player with at least 1,000 possessions, according to Synergy Sports — but if he’s willing to accept a new role under Ham, he potentially provides a lot more dynamism and offensive firepower than Beverley.

The fact that the Lakers would be willing to pay Westbrook $47 million to sit at home speaks to the deteriorated relationship between the two parties. Obviously a trade is the preferred option — deals involving Myles Turner and Buddy Hield of the rebuilding Indiana Pacers come to mind — but that would almost certainly require the Lakers to surrender at least one of their future picks, especially since Talen Horton-Tucker, one of their only young assets, went to the Utah Jazz in the Beverley trade.

So far the Lakers haven’t been willing to compromise their future to get Westbrook off the roster, and now it seems they might be content with eating his salary to keep him away from the team. Of course, there’s always the possibility that this report is posturing from the Lakers to make it appear they’re not as desperate to unload Westbrook as it seems. Only time will tell, but it’s looking increasingly realistic that Westbrook won’t suit up for the Lakers to start the 2021-22 season.

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