With one day to go before the 2022 NBA Draft and nine days to go before teams are allowed to start talking to free agents, there is no shortage of rumors swirling around the league.
As is often the case, a good chunk of those rumors have to do with the Los Angeles Lakers, especially since they’re apparently still looking to unload Russell Westbrook.
In recent days, the rumors have been coming in fast and furious fashion.
Westbrook could be traded to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyrie Irving.
Westbrook could head to the nation’s capital for Bradley Beal.
Westbrook may be packing his bags for Cleveland in return for Collin Sexton.
Another rumor has the nine-time All-Star going to the Charlotte Hornets for a package of players.
This last rumor has actually been circulating for a little while.
Plenty of Lakers fans are dreaming of a reunion between Irving and LeBron James, or perhaps having a young and improving star guard such as Sexton in the Purple and Gold.
But such a trade will be hard to pull off for several reasons.
On the other hand, a Westbrook-to-Charlotte trade may be the most realistic option for LA right now, not to mention the most economical one.
Who could the Lakers get for Westbrook?
Reportedly, the Hornets are looking to remodel their roster a bit, and they also reportedly have some “real” interest in going after Westbrook.
The player most mentioned whom LA would likely take back is Gordon Hayward, a veteran sharpshooter.
Yes, Hayward is injury-prone, and yes, he is expensive, as he will get paid approximately $ 30 million a year for the next two seasons.
But he is a deadly 3-point shooter who made 39.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season.
Hayward is also a legitimate scorer in general. He put up 15.9 points a game this year, and last year he was at 19.6 points per contest.
He can get to the free throw line pretty often relative to how much he shoots the ball, and when he gets there, he is pretty dependable, as evidenced by his career 82.6 percent accuracy from the charity stripe.
Having averaged 3.5 assists per game for his career, Hayward can also get others involved a bit.
One question is whether he’d be willing to come off the bench in LA He has started the vast majority of his games in the NBA, but with the Lakers, he’d almost certainly have to be recast in a sixth-man type of role.
The only way for Hayward to start with the Purple and Gold is if Anthony Davis starts at center, which most agree is not a good idea.
To make salaries match, the Lakers may also receive a player such as guard Terry Rozier in a Westbrook trade with the Hornets.
Rozier is regarded as a pretty weak defender, but he is a potent offensive player who averaged 19.3 points a game this season.
Even better, he shot a solid 37.4 percent from downtown, and in 2020, he got as high as 40.7 percent from that territory.
Rozier has achieved this type of 3-point shooting accuracy on a high volume of 3-point attempts, so he could greatly help LA’s outside shooting woes.
Although he is not a true point guard or facilitator, he could help in that area, as he posted 4.5 assists a game this year, and his career average of 1.2 turnovers a game suggests a player who protects the ball well.
Why Charlotte could ultimately be the Lakers’ best trade partner:
Many feel the Lakers will have to give up at least one first-round draft pick just to get another team to take Westbrook off their hands.
But there seems to be a chance that they won’t have to do that if they pair up with the Hornets.
Jason Reed of Lake Show Life broke down how and why that may be the case.
Via Lake Show Life:
“The other potential trade that has been floated around is a salary-dump trade with the Charlotte Hornets, who need to free up contract space to retain Miles Bridges this summer and eventually give LaMelo Ball a new contract. Charlotte reportedly has a legitimate interest in Westbrook for that reason.
“However, the cost always seemed to be a first-round pick for the Lakers, which just does not make much sense for the team. Recent reports indicate that might not be the case, though, and the Lakers might be able to pull this off for much cheaper. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Hornets are the team looking to trade a first-round pick to get off of Gordon Hayward’s deal. ”
“Since the Hornets are willing to trade a first to get off of Hayward, the Lakers might be able to get away with trading Westbrook away without giving up a pick at all. At the very most, the Lakers might be able to trade a future pick swap, which with a team like Charlotte, is perfectly fine. ”
Given Irving’s enigmatic and flaky nature and Beal’s inconsistent 3-point shooting, such a trade with Charlotte may be the most economical way for the Lakers to get rid of Westbrook, if that is indeed what they should do with him.
In addition, the general manager of the Hornets is Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers’ former GM. Perhaps Kupchak would be willing to do his former team a solid by giving them a solid return on Westbrook and aiding their attempt to return to championship contention.
After all, the young Hornets are building for the future, not for right now.