The trade deadline ends this afternoon at 3:00 PM ET and the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are on the clock. Both teams are trying to better themselves for the future, as the Lakers want to become stronger for the playoffs and Rockets to add more draft compensation to their stock and clear cap space. Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon have been the biggest names in the trade market, including John Wall.
As it’s been seen, the Lakers are struggling with Westbrook on the court with Anthony Davis and Lebron James. It has been reported by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that Westbrook was out back tightness versus the Portland Trailblazer, which was strange after sitting for the rest of the 4th quarter. Westbrook has been an awful fit for the Lakers, and it’s shown on a nightly basis. Luckily for the Lakers, Wall is healthy and well rested. In my opinion, Wall will be a better fit for the Lakers because of his defense, passing, IQ, and scoring. The Lakers should go all in if they want to compete better in the playoffs.
Bleacher Report had reported that the Lakers will ask James for his opinion on doing a player swap between Westbrook and Wall. The Lakers would have to give up the 2027 first-round pick with Westbrook, as the Rockets want to add to their draft capital. Of course, the Rockets would buyout Westbrook if they cannot find a contending team for him. I decided to bring in a fellow SB Nation teammate Harrison Faigen of the Silver Screen and Roll site, as he will be helpful on the Westbrook-Wall situation.
Zach Allen: How are you doing Harrison?! Is LA treating you fair?
Harrison Faigen: I’m doing all right Zach. L.A. is great, the trade deadline is… not. Just trying to survive for a few more hours.
ZA: So, let’s get to business… Russell and John’s names have rung a ton before the trade deadline, which is interesting. I think the Lakers would be helpful to both sides, as they can clear the Rockets’ cap space and get Wall at a high price. Although Wall is due $47.3 million next season, he’ll provide better value than Westbrook. Wall survived the horrifying season the Rockets had last season by averaging 20.6 points, 6.9 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game with shooting splits of 40.4/31.7/74.9 percent. Like Westbrook, he can create opportunities for his teammates and seek out the driving lanes if a scoring opportunity presents itself. He will show no hesitation on taking shots amongst Lebron James and Anthony Davis and know his role on the Lakers.
He’ll do a better job than Westbrook at controlling the pace and taking advantage of getting his shots with the second unit. Wall is also a better finisher at the rim than Westbrook, as he was 55.4 percent at the rim last season. And he finished with a 106.1 offensive rating with a true shooting percentage of 50.3 percent. Westbrook has allowed the LA crowd to get to him and dismantle his ability as a basketball player. Wall’s mentality will be tougher than Westbrook.
HF: For me, this deal isn’t even totally about basketball fit, even though you make a lot of decent points. I was against the Wall deal a few weeks ago because it felt like a lateral move at best, but things have just gotten so toxic and untenable between Westbrook, the coaching staff and the locker room since then that it feels like they just need to get him out of here. This does not feel tenable to make last for an entire season, and at least in Wall, the Lakers would be acquiring a player who — at least in theory — would just be excited to play any kind of role rather than openly feuding with the coaching staff through the media and seemingly rapidly losing the patience of his star teammates.
Sometimes you just have to do something, and while I’m not going to pretend to know how much a guy who has played 40 games in the last three seasons can or can’t help, it’s clear the Lakers are just in desperate need of a shakeup.
ZA: I understand why the Lakers will not give up the 2027 first-round pick, Lebron could be gone again. James said he wanted to play with his son but could also be retired by then. It just depends how desperate the Lakers are during this progress. They could weigh into trading Westbrook during the offseason, as they want to give up the 2027 and 2029 first round pick. Rafael Stone could add Daniel Theis to the deal, so it adds more value of backing Davis when he needs a rest. Theis is a good defender outside the perimeter and inside. Wall and Theis could be helpful with the Lakers because of the value they can bring. Lebron would Theis is screening ability and being able to rotate on defense.
HF: Yeah, including the 2027 first is the only reason I’d hesitate at this point, which is a pretty damning indictment of the Westbrook experiment in and of itself. It’s gone so poorly that, again, a guy who has not played this season, has the same contract, and a much more damning injury history is seen as a better option. That’s… woof.
But as far as the Lakers adding Theis’ salary to make the deal work, I’m not actually that confident they’d do that. If it allowed them to avoid including a first, maybe they would, but as anyone paying attention for the last year knows, the Lakers are really concerned about luxury taxes. Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report — a plugged-in voice on all things Lakers — reported yesterday that the team would be concerned about the tax hit such a move would create. With a few hours to go before the deadline, there is a chance everyone shifts their stance: Like you mentioned, Westbrook and Wall have similar deals, and so maybe Houston would be willing to eventually relent and make the swap for a few second-rounders, or maybe the Lakers just say they can’t go forward with Westbrook and include the first, but with this much money involved and so little time, there may be too many hurdles to clear do do this at midseason, especially when Marc Stein reported last night that the two sides are still at an impasse.
ZA: The Lakers must make a decision that impacts their salary cap and team. I’m sorry it has come down to this. But the Rockets aren’t looking to buyout a Wall so other teams could sign him. Five hours ago, I heard Michael Scotto pronounce a three-team trade where the Lakers could get Cam Reddish and Alec Burks. They would send out Talen Horton-Tucker, which has become their biggest mission. I never thought they would get Tucker off their roster because of his low value. There is a chance that the Wall-Westbrook trade could happen Thursday afternoon. The Lakers getting Reddish, Wall, and Burks should sustain their roster. They cannot be prideful overdraft picks.
HF: Well, you say that, but they might have to be. I’m not so sure a career survivor and social climber like Pelinka would be willing to publicly admit the Westbrook deal was a mistake so soon after going all-in on him. At some point they’re going to scapegoat Frank Vogel for all this, but the blame will shift to him next, and he’s likely thinking about his own job security.
Like I wrote before, they may just have to do all this to try and shake things up, but they also may not want to double down on a bad bet, all while highlighting how bad a bet it was.
ZA: If you’re Rob Pelinka, what do you do to get the deal done, as the playoffs are slowly slipping away? Lebron and AD need more than Malik Monk, Austin Reaves, and Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers cannot strike out on Thursday, as their season depends on it. Wall will make a huge impact on their roster. Honestly, it’s best for the Lakers to trade Westbrook, as he wasn’t used to his strengths on offense. He cannot play to Lebron’s pace on offense. He needs to be able to have full control on offense and be used more as a cutter. It didn’t work with the Rockets because of that. Westbrook does better without the basketball, instead of being a catch-and-shoot threat. Wall shoots 38.4 percent from three when he is catching and shooting the basketball.
HF: I’m less sure than you that Wall can fix this, or that there is really much of anything the Lakers can do to save this season. They may have to rip the bandaid off with Westbrook, so perhaps they pull the trigger on something, but this campaign is likely doomed anyway, and they might be better off waiting until the offseason to try and salvage what’s left of LeBron’s prime. As unthinkable as wasting another year where he’s playing this well sounds, the team might not be able to save this now anyway. I fully expect a few roster-clearing moves, but I’m not certain a big shakeup is in order, even if the latter is probably their only chance to make much headway.