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Lakers trade rumors: Los Angeles had ‘internal discussions’ about Russell Westbrook for Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan package

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The Lakers’ patience to find the ideal trade to move Russell Westbrook could pay off in the near future.

While he is finding his footing as a reserve in his second year in LA, Westbrook and his expiring $47 million contract remain at the center of trade rumors, which have linked him to the Pacers, Spurs and Hornets. As mentioned on ESPN’s Zach Lowe’s “Lowe Post” podcast, members of the Lakers brass have had preliminary discussions about the idea of sending Westbrook to the Bulls in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, but nothing has come close to materializing. 

By most accounts, the deal would be a home run for the Lakers — DeRozan is averaging 26.3 points on 52.0 percent shooting from the field this season and while Vucevic is a limited defender, he’s a talented big man and his $22 million salary would come off the books when he enters free agency in 2023.

Here’s more from Lowe on the possibility of a deal centered around DeRozan and Westbrook:

The trade I saw on Twitter was (Westbrook) and both picks — one with light protections I think — for DeRozan and Vucevic. I can tell you 100 percent for sure that the Lakers have had internal discussions about that very possibility, if it would ever come up. Not that they would do it. 

That Lowe expresses uncertainty from the Lakers’ side makes the prospective deal sound more hypothetical than anything. At least at this moment.

MORE: Why December could be most pivotal stretch of 2022-23 season for Lakers

Why wouldn’t the Lakers look to make a deal that would clearly upgrade their roster? There is a timeline in which both sides can find a way to make a deal happen.

How Lakers, Bulls could make Russell Westbrook-DeMar DeRozan trade work 

Making the money match

Let’s start with the basics. A trade can’t work if the salary doesn’t match.

Because of Westbrook’s $47.0 million salary, it would take some work to make the money match in any potential trade. 

DeRozan is in the second year of a three-year $81.9 million signed with the Bulls in 2021. He is earning $27.3 million during the 2022-23 season. As mentioned above, Vucevic is in the final year of his contract and earning $22 million.

The incoming $49.3 million in salary is close enough to the outgoing $47.0 million in salary for the deal to work.

Draft compensation

Thanks to the trade that sent Anthony Davis to LA in 2019, the Lakers are low on draft capital and only have their first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to offer in a trade. Reports have indicated that LA’s reluctance to part ways with both of its future picks has prevented trade negotiations with other teams from advancing.

The Bulls would be no different.

If Chicago were to make this trade, it would signify a reset after attempting to rebuild a contender around the aging DeRozan and Vucevic. In order to build for the future, the Bulls would look to acquire as much draft capital as possible.

Lowe addressed this part of the preliminary discussions as well, saying “both picks for the Bulls guys is certainly something that (the Lakers’) brain trust has thought about, otherwise they’d be irresponsible.”

Given DeRozan’s status as an All-Star, Chicago would be well within its rights to ask for each of LA’s two future first-round picks.

The fit

When considering any trade, it’s important to consider why any team involved would do it.

For the Lakers, the deal would finally put an end to the Westbrook saga that has had a few ups and many more downs. Westbrook’s buy-in has been admirable, but the fit has not been clean and he’d be better suited for a fresh start elsewhere.

MORE: DeMar DeRozan explains how close he was to becoming a Laker in 2021

The deal also rights a wrong for the Lakers, who could have added DeRozan in the 2021 offseason but instead opted for a Westbrook deal. The fit alongside LeBron James and Davis isn’t perfect, but it is much cleaner and would propel the Lakers from a Play-In Tournament hopeful to a solidified playoff team at least. Vucevic is a floor-spacing center that can take some pressure off Davis and his expiring salary gives LA some flexibility in the 2023 offseason.

On the other side of things, the deal would give the Bulls a chance to hit reset.

Chicago tried to go all-in with its moves but it appears that this version of the team has already peaked. Moving on from DeRozan and Vucevic gives the Bulls a chance to right some wrongs, as well — they’ve parted ways with young talent in recent years and tried to build through trade.

The money from Westbrook’s expiring salary and the potential draft capital it could acquire would give Chicago another chance to rebuild by drafting and giving its young talent more opportunities to develop.


Credit: sportingnews.com

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