As the Lakers continue striking out with Russell Westbrook trades throughout the summer and into the fall, they have circled back to where it began this spring. One of the very first teams the Lakers were linked to was the Charlotte Hornets.
Much has changed for both sides since the links back in April, but the interest remains for both. The Lakers reportedly value Terry Rozier highly, but he’s not the player that appears to be causing a hold-up in negotiations.
According to longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein in his latest newsletter, Gordon Hayward — and more specifically his contract — is currently serving as the impassable roadblock between the two sides (emphasis mine).
“The Lakers’ interest in Charlotte’s Terry Rozier as a potential headliner in a Russell Westbrook trade is not new. You’ll recall that this Substack has been writing since April about L.A.’s fondness for the former Celtic in potential Westbrook-centric trade discussions with Charlotte. The deterrent for the Lakers, since the idea of dealing Westbrook to the Hornets emerged as a concept months ago, has been concern stemming from the prospect of also absorbing Gordon Hayward’s contract, which has one guaranteed season left on it after this one at $31.5 million. Hayward was limited by injury to just 93 games in his first two seasons as a Hornet.”
The easiest way to complete a trade that sends Russell Westbrook to Charlotte that doesn’t involve the Hornets sending back upwards of three players is to include Hayward in the deal. Financially, packaging Rozier and Hayward for Russ in a trade works.
The problem with the Lakers is that beggars can’t be choosers right now. They barely have any leverage right now and Rozier and Hayward serve as big upgrades over what they have, particularly when it comes to Hayward. The Lakers have a severe lack of wings and, at his best, Hayward is an All-Star caliber wing.
The injury concerns are very valid, but the situation the Lakers find themselves in is going to take a gamble of some sort. The other oft-mentioned package of Myles Turner and Buddy Hield features a player who has battled injuries as well in Turner. There is no easy way out of the mess with Westbrook. The Lakers have to take a calculated risk of some sort.
Hayward may be the risk they calculate is worth taking, but if they do so, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be anytime soon.