Lakers trade scenarios: What I’m hearing about Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and more


December 15 marked the unofficial start of the NBA trade season.

As of Thursday, 74 additional players — all of whom were free agents this past offseason — were added to the trade-eligible pool. Approximately 89 percent of the league is now able to be traded, opening up considerable options to the Los Angeles Lakers as they attempt to improve their roster and climb out of their 11-16 hole in the Western Conference standings.

With trade season upon us, here is a brief primer on where things currently stand with the Lakers, with the necessary caveat that things can change at any moment at this time of year.



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Which players are off the table?

LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

James can’t be traded until next summer because of the timing of the extension he signed this offseason. The Lakers have no interest in trading Davis, especially after his re-emergence as a top-10 player and their best player thus far this season. Any Davis trade buzz was always premature.

Beyond the two superstars, Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel and Max Christie are young players on team-friendly contracts that have exceeded expectations and fit well next to James and Davis. It’s unlikely that any of them are traded, with the Lakers especially valuing Reaves and Walker IV as starting- and closing-level players.

Which players are on the table?

Everyone else. But the three standout names are Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn.

The Lakers only have six players making more than the league minimum salary: Westbrook, James, Davis, Beverley, Walker IV and Nunn. Any notable trade is going to involve at least one if not multiple of those players to match salary. That’s just how trades work.

Again, James can’t be traded. Davis is untouchable. Walker IV is proving to be a steal on his taxpayer midlevel contract. That leaves the three aforementioned names as the only realistic possibilities.

The Lakers’ interest in trading Westbrook is well-documented. That interest is waning, as The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported this week, but it’s not entirely off the table. It becomes more likely the closer the Lakers get to the Feb. 9 trade deadline and teams become desperate to tank or shed long-term salary.

Internally, Los Angeles still has concerns over Westbrook’s fit with James, especially at the end of games, when opponents have often put their center on Westbrook and mucked up the Lakers’ league-worst crunchtime offense.

Beverley has struggled in his second go-round in Los Angeles, particularly on offense. He’s posting career lows in field-goal percentage (30.3 percent), 3-point percentage (25.4 percent), 2-point percentage (40.6 percent), effective field-goal percentage (38.9 percent), true shooting percentage (43.9 percent), points (4.6) and assists (2.4). For the first time in his career, Beverley has a negative plus-minus. At 34, it’s understandable that he’s beginning to decline as a player. But he hasn’t made the impact that the Lakers expected when they traded for him this past summer.

Nunn has lost his spot in the rotation, playing single-digit minutes in four of the past seven games and not playing entirely in two of them. The third-year guard is posting career lows virtually across the board. He looks like a shell of the player the Lakers envisioned when they signed him during the 2021 offseason.

All three players are underperforming relative to their contracts ($47.1 million for Westbrook, $13.0 million for Beverley and $5.3 million for Nunn).

What are the Lakers looking for?

Size — mainly on the perimeter, though they could use another big — and 3-point shooting. Additionally, Los Angeles is looking for the type of upgrade that will make them contenders.

The Lakers roster is imbalanced with too many small guards in the rotation. They need to add a wing in the 6-foot-6 to 6-foot-9 range. They also could use a versatile big that fits well next to Davis and would slot the limited Gabriel into a more proper role.

The Lakers are always in the market for another star, and a better-fitting third star, even one that’s a guard, is a consideration.

Who are some possible trade partners?

In no particular order: Indiana, Detroit, Washington, San Antonio, Chicago, Utah, Brooklyn and New York. Each of those teams has a star, wing and/or big man that the Lakers are known or reported to be interested in.

Which players have been linked to the Lakers?

As The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported earlier this week, the Lakers have had discussions for Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanovic, as well as the Knicks’ Evan Fournier and Cam Reddish.

In addition, other names that have come up are DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Kuzma, Myles Turner, Buddy Hield, Kyrie Irving and Doug McDermott.

All of these players fit the bill as either wings, bigs or stars.

In the ultimate pie-in-the-sky scenario, the Lakers have interest in Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal if any of the three stars were to become available.

What would a trade package look like?

Regardless of whichever path they take forward, the Lakers will be trading players with negative value and thus will have to attach draft capital, likely in the form of one of their two tradable future first-round picks in 2027 or ’29.

This is where things get tricky. The Lakers are technically willing to part with their two picks if they believe the deal will vault them into contention. But it’s still unclear how far the organization believes they are from that threshold and what type of trade would meet that criterion. It’s also unclear how much lower the standard is for trading just one pick versus both.

Any deal attaching two picks would likely involve Westbrook, though that would potentially rule out the team moving Beverley and Nunn given the lack of remaining tradable first-round picks – unless they also were part of the same trade. The Lakers could make a smaller move using both picks along with Beverley and Nunn, but it’s more difficult to find a significant difference-maker in the $17-22 million range.

Are the Lakers buyers or sellers?

The Lakers are buyers. But their issue is that most of the league is still evaluating whether they want to buy, sell or hold. The Lakers need to find a seller that is willing to take back the contracts of either Westbrook and/or Nunn and Beverley (along with draft compensation).

The teams that are tanking and would be willing to trade their veterans don’t make sense for the Lakers (Detroit, Orlando and Houston). San Antonio and Charlotte are two exceptions, but talks have cooled off with both franchises, and the Hornets may still be trying to get into the Play-In Tournament mix.

The Lakers need one of the aforementioned potential trade partners to change their organizational motivations and/or underachieve, leading them to consider making a trade.

When are the Lakers likely to make a trade?

Not for at least two to four weeks (the end of December through mid-January), according to multiple league sources with knowledge of their plans.

NBA trade history shows that trades don’t happen until January on the early side. Most happen within the final week of the trade deadline. There are exceptions, of course, and the Lakers hope to be one of them.

The Lakers have an urgency to get a deal done sooner than later. The sooner they improve their roster, the sooner they can turn their season around. But they’re also at the mercy of the trade cycle and the other teams’ developing motives.

There are still several factors that need to be settled — mainly, who the sellers are and how many picks the Lakers are willing to include in certain deals — in the coming weeks.

(Photo of Beverley and Westbrook: Jeff Bottari / NBAE via Getty Images)


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