Why a Spurs-Lakers trade could be disastrous
Rumors continue to swirl around a potential trade between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. More specifically, according to reports, the Lakers are interested in Jakob Poetl, Josh Richardson, and/or Doug McDermott. The one name that keeps coming up for the Spurs side of the transaction is Russell Westbrook, with a 1st round lottery-protected pick as a tag-along. While it makes sense for the Lakers to desire these pieces from the Spurs, I'm convinced a trade with these pieces involved would be nothing but detrimental to San Antonio.
Spurs fans are very familiar with Russell Westbrook. After several play-off clashes with Westbrook as a leader of a young Oklahoma City Thunder team that took the league by storm, most Spurs fans can not look upon the Westbrook name with indifference. Whether the fans love him, hate him or anything in between, there is an opinion. He was an immense talent with elite athleticism that stressed the Spurs' defense to its foundations. But rather than his style of play, it's Westbrook's contract that could cause issues for the Spurs in a trade.
If the Spurs decided they wanted to keep Russell Westbrook, you chance stunting the growth of your young talent. Simultaneously, though, he is no longer the offensive dynamo that keeps coaches up at night. Westbrook is currently averaging 3.5 turnovers and 15.9 points per game while shooting 42.3% from the field--his lowest since his second year in the NBA. The Spurs already have a stable of young guards still learning and growing into professionals, so putting a turnover-prone, inefficient veteran in the rotation does not bode well for their development.
The reality of a Westbrook trade is bleak
The next possibility would be to waive Westbrook and free up cap space, but we need to take a closer look at the numbers. Poetl, Richardson, and McDermott make a combined $35 million (I'm rounding up) but Jakob and Richardson are both free agents after this season. McDermott's cap hit is $13 million for one more season. Westbrook is owed $47 million this year but will be a free agent after the season, completely clearing that money off the Spurs' books. Choosing not to make a trade will prevent the Lakers from improving their roster and only cost the Spurs McDermott's $13 million cap hit.
As a team already beneath the NBA minimum salary cap, freeing extra money is not a problem the Spurs should be concerned about. If the February 9th deadline passes with San Antonio under the cap, the rest of the players on the roster receive bonuses. This would not be the end of the world and paying the guys already on the roster some bonus money would be preferable to filling out the cap to pay Westbrook and help the Lakers.
I may be holding on to some resentment from the rivalry during the 2000s, but what of it? Even so, the Lakers can only offer picks from the year 2026 and beyond. The Pelicans own LA's 1st round picks for the next three years from their Anthony Davis trade. Helping the Lakers to receive a protected 1st round pick 3 years away while trading away vet pieces that can help your young roster grow today could be a horrible decision that comes back to bite the Spurs.