Thursday, August 11, 2022

Lakers’ Russell Westbrook to opt into final year, $47 million of contract

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Russell Westbrook is opting into the final year and $47 million left on his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, CBS Sports HQ’s Bill Reiter confirms. While the move is hardly a surprise, Westbrook notably waited until a day before the deadline to make up his mind. He will now at least begin the 2022 offseason as a member of the Lakers.

As long as it took him to settle on this decision, the news has been expected since the season ended. Westbrook is coming off of the worst season of his career. The Lakers were favorites to win the Western Conference when they acquired him last offseason. They didn’t even reach the play-in round with him. He averaged below 20 points per game for the first time since the 2009-10 season, once again shot below 30 percent on 3-pointers and never committed to improving his defense, off-ball movement and shot-selection to fit into a team that already had enough ball-handling talent.

Had Westbrook opted out, he would have been sacrificing tens of millions of dollars. He simply would not have commanded anywhere close to the $47 million he is set to receive if he were available on the open market. His game is predicated largely on athleticism, but as he will turn 34 early in the season, that athleticism is trending downward. 

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The Lakers could theoretically still trade Westbrook. In fact, they technically could not until he opted in. But they have sent the message all offseason that they are not willing to add draft capital or take on long-term salary just to move him despite the obvious need to do so in order to facilitate a deal. Westbrook’s only value is his expiring salary. Acquiring teams simply aren’t going to surrender value for him without getting something substantive back.

So for the time being, it appears as though the Lakers will run back last season’s disappointing roster and hope that better health and new coach Darvin Ham turn things around. 

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