The Los Angeles Lakers are in a special place this offseason. Sure, they have two of the best players in the NBA, but there’s no guarantee they’ll stay healthy all season.
Alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers have a wealth of aging stars and a point guard in Russell Westbrook, who has been the victim of speculation since the close. And now, according to a report by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor during a June 15 episode of The Void podcast, the Lakers are looking at opportunities to trade Westbrook and two future first-round picks to three-time All-Star Bradley Beal purchase in a blockbuster trade during the off-season.
“The only name I’ve heard recently is Bradley Beal as another guy they want. I’m not sure if the interest is that mutual. You know, Beal, it seems Miami is more of a threat to get him out of Washington. I don’t think you can rule out Boston for his relationship with Jason Tatum either, but the Lakers are trying to tout some such moves with the expiring Russ [contract] and the premieres of 27 and 29,” O’Connor said.
Beal, 28, would be an ideal fit alongside Lebron and Davis as he is adept at off-ball play but can also operate at pick and roll, create his own shot and generate goals for others due to his shooting severity.
As recently as June 10, it was reported that the Lakers’ front office was opposed to adding draft capital to a potential deal to get Westbrook off his contract. Corresponding NBA reporter Marc Steinthe team was steadfast in its commitment to sticking to its future picks – although at this point the John Wall was discussed as the most likely trading target.
“The Lakers continue to signal — at least three months before training camp opens — that they do not want to force a Westbrook trade that will cost them an additional fortune. Regarding the longstanding idea that Westbrook could be traded again for Houston’s John Wall as both would earn near-identical salaries of $47 million next season, a source briefed on the situation told me this Week that Houston’s interest was always based on Lakers including draft compensation to sweeten the deal, which LA adamantly refuses,” Stein reported June 10.
Beal doesn’t have Wall’s injury history, nor has he missed significant basketball time in recent years. Rather, Beal was the lone star with the Wizards and produced admirably despite being the obvious first option.
Even this season, in what could be described as a “down year,” Beal averaged 23.2 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 45.1% from deep, but out fought the field and only converted 30% of his perimeter shots. However, Beal’s season was cut short after just 40 games when he underwent season-ending surgery to fix a ligament problem in his left wrist.
Both Beal and Westbrook have player options in their contracts for the upcoming season and currently it looks like both parties will opt for it. However, if the Lakers were to meddle in trade talks with the Wizards involving several future first-round picks, it’s unlikely they would approve that trade without the deal being a sign-and-trade.
Otherwise, Beal could find a new team by the end of next season, leaving the Lakers short on star-level talent and missing out on two more future draft picks — it’s just not smart business. Obviously, the downside to conducting a sign-and-trade is that the team receiving the signed player is immediately committed to the upcoming season.
Given the Lakers’ current roster situation, it doesn’t seem like adding that kind of constraint to their ability to rebuild the team is high on their to-do list. However, players of Beal’s caliber don’t come by very often, and if the price of bringing him to Los Angeles is a year below the hard cap, then it’s probably a price worth paying.