Lakers rumors: Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker

Lakers rumors: Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker

Lakers

Lakers rumors: Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Malik Monk, Talen Horton-Tucker

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HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Yossi Gozlan discuss what’s next for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Plus, the futures of Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk and more on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.

For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.

1:00 Russell Westbrook’s future

Russell Westbrook during a game

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Scotto: During Russell Westbrook’s end of the season media availability, he implied he and Frank Vogel weren’t on the same page and that Vogel didn’t value what he’s brought to the league. He also alluded to not being allowed to let Russ be Russ when he talked about the trio with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It seemed like both sides were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It didn’t fit.

When you look at Westbrook’s $47 million player option, no team is going to pay Westbrook anything close to that. If he wants to maximize his earnings, he should opt into that deal easily.

I asked a few NBA executives what they thought of Westbrook’s trade value now.

One NBA executive said, “Westbrook will still be viewed as a negative asset by most teams, but some teams might be willing to take on one bad year in order to shed three years of future money.”

Another NBA executive said, “Right now, his trade value is extremely negative. All it takes, however, is one team to be desperate to add talent and have bad contracts to make it happen. The reality is that 95 percent of teams view that as a terrible contract right now. They’re not doing that unless they’re dumping a bunch of stuff.”

The third executive said he wouldn’t trade for Westbrook at all.

Gozlan: I think a separation of some sort is coming. I don’t think a stretch (provision) is going to be in consideration. That would leave $15 million over the next three years of dead money. It’s basically three of Luol Deng, who they just got off.

I think the idea that the Lakers need to attach an asset just to move Westbrook and that he’s a super negative value is a little overblown. He’s now a huge expiring contract, so to me he’s a neutral value. I don’t think any team is trading for Westbrook, the player, but they’re going to trade for his big expiring contract if they’re looking to get off money.

I would imagine part of the deal in acquiring Westbrook is a potential buyout. If he were to agree to one during the offseason, he would probably give up somewhat of a premium, likely the amount equal to what he’d get on his next deal. I think at most, he would get a mid-level type offer from an interested team. So the idea of shaving off $5-10 million off his dead cap hit would be a little appealing to some teams. I’m sure the John Wall for Russell Westbrook framework will be revisited.

Scotto: I’m certainly keeping an eye on Wall. He’s been linked to the Lakers via trade talks for Westbrook this season. As I reported on a previous HoopsHype podcast on the Rockets, he’s opting into the final year of his contract and will give the Rockets a chance to trade him, or his agency, Klutch Sports, is going to work on a buyout agreement before the start of next season ideally.

One GM told me he feels Wall can still be a high-level backup or fringe starter and that he has something left in the tank.

6:39 Will LeBron James sign an extension?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Scotto: LeBron turns 38 in December. He’s talked about wanting to play with his son in the future, but he’s eligible for an extension that would lock him up with Anthony Davis’ contract for the next few seasons.

Gozlan: LeBron is eligible starting on August 4th for two years, $97 million, which would kick in after next season and keep him under contract through 2025. I would guess the Lakers will put that offer on the table as soon as it’s available. The Lakers’ offseason will mostly be complete by then, so he should have an idea by then if he wants to commit for another two years. My guess is he does not extend with the Lakers for a couple of reasons. One, he can sign it up until June 30, 2023. Two, he might want to keep the pressure on the Lakers organization after the season they just had. Three, he’s LeBron James. As long as he’s playing at this level next year, a max contract will be available to him.

Extending LeBron comes with its own caveats for the Lakers. Right now, the Lakers are projected to generate over $60 million in cap space for 2023 with only Anthony Davis and Talen Horton-Tucker under contract. Extending LeBron to that maximum amount would eliminate that, but I think we can also agree that there’s a stronger likelihood the Lakers won’t have cap space because there’s a good chance they’ll take on long-term money in a Westbrook deal.

12:20 Anthony Davis

nba trade rumors rankings lakers anthony davis russell westbrook knicks julius randle

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Scotto: LeBron and Anthony Davis believe they can be the foundation of a contender when they’re both fully healthy. I know that’s a bit of an asterisk with Davis in particular. LeBron has missed some time over the past few years, but generally speaking, he’s pretty healthy. Some people wondered if the Lakers would consider dangling Davis. I personally don’t see that. People have to write stuff. I see the two of them remaining in unison together. Ultimately, Davis went to Klutch Sports to facilitate the trade to get to the Lakers in the first place. He and LeBron have a good relationship.

Gozlan: Davis just had his two worst seasons in a row since his rookie season. Health has been the biggest issue. He hasn’t been the dominant force he was two years ago when they won the championship. I think he can still get back to being a Top 10 player again, but I think it needs to happen this season. I think the Lakers want to keep him long-term. I remember when Davis signed his five-year max after the Lakers won the title, and people were wondering if he left money on the table since he could’ve become a free agent this offseason and could’ve gotten a bigger max contract. Maybe he would still get it this offseason, but given the last two seasons, I think he made a good decision.

14:31 Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and draft picks as trade bait

Harry How/Getty Images

Scotto: I’d be shocked if Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and multiple first-round picks aren’t dangled on the trade market this summer for the Lakers. When you look at their roster outside of LeBron and Davis, that’s the only way for them to try to improve the team. I don’t think it’ll get the team anything back of consequence. They tried to dangle that before the trade deadline.

I find it tough for them unless they’re going to somehow try to consolidate Westbrook’s contract into multiple pieces and do the reverse of what they did when they traded for him from the Wizards.

Gozlan: I think the Lakers ideally want to try to trade Westbrook without attaching a pick and get several role players to fill out the roster. Then, try to package Horton-Tucker and Nunn for something else. Both players can bring back around $20 million. Maybe they attach a pick there and see what they can get.

16:25 Malik Monk’s free agent value

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Scotto: Monk was a bright spot for the Lakers this season and gave the team great value while playing on a minimum contract and set himself up for a pay raise this summer.

I spoke to four NBA executives who projected Malik Monk to earn an average annual salary somewhere between the taxpayer and non-taxpayer mid-level exception as of now. That would project to be somewhere between roughly the $6-10 million annual range.

One executive specifically said, “Malik had a good year. I was surprised he was a minimum guy last year. I thought he should’ve been worth more than that. If you put Monk on a good team, his scoring and shooting is really important.”

Gozlan: I think he should at least get the taxpayer mid-level exception starting at $6.4 million. That’s the most the Lakers can offer him. Otherwise, they can only give him a starting salary of about $2.5 million, which is just slightly more than his minimum. How do the Lakers want to prioritize their mid-level exception? I think there’s a pretty good chance they can get outbid for him. There are plenty of teams with the full (non-taxpayer) mid-level exception. I think he’d love to return to the Lakers, but if there’s a team that significantly outbids the Lakers, I think that possibility is real, and they should prepare for that.

21:35 Rob Pelinka’s future and Frank Vogel’s firing

Harry How/Getty Images

Scotto: Pelinka, I think the bullseye is a little bit on his back. The Lakers went away from their defensive identity and what made them good. They lost Alex Caruso and guys like JaVale McGee over the years. I think those were underrated losses that people didn’t really factor in.

In terms of what Pelinka did with Vogel, I asked some executives around the league what they thought. Their assessment was that it was clear Vogel was the scapegoat.

One executive said, “Frank was definitely the scapegoat. One more year for that front office, and if the results don’t drastically improve, they could be in line for some more changes.”

Another executive said, “Vogel was the scapegoat. There’s no question. I don’t think they treated him very well on the way out. I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s very well respected in the coaching community. He’ll be able to pick his spot as a high-level assistant if that’s something he wants to do.”

You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) and Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter. 

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