With the Charlotte Hornets set for a financial crunch beginning this offseason, they could be seeing themselves going after a former MVP in the Western Conference. That guy just might be Russell Westbrook.
New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham intends to keep Westbrook as he stated during his press conference, but Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office would love nothing else than to rid themselves of Westbrook’s contract.
The team that might take him off their hands is the Charlotte Hornets. They need to clear up cap space past the 2022-23 season. Adding a player like Westbrook for a year and getting rid of Gordon Hayward’s and Terry Rozier’s contracts could be the play.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer recently spoke on this:
“The Russell Westbrook interest that Marc Stein reported months back is real. Though Westbrook makes little sense as a player next to Ball, he does have an expiring contract and the Hornets could be dropping the bag for restricted free agent Miles Bridges, plus LaMelo Ball’s extension is around the corner. It’s a good time to move some other long-term salary (e.g., Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier) for an expiring deal in Russ. They could also explore moving up from 13 and 15 into the top 10. No matter what, the Hornets should prioritize finding a big scoring wing who can complement LaMelo. Bridges is good. With him or not, the Hornets need someone.”
Hayward and Rozier are set to make around $54.7 million combined next season. Hayward’s injury issues are well-documented, but Rozier has been a consistently solid backcourt mate for LaMelo Ball.
Over the last two seasons, Rozier has averaged 20.9 points, 4.6 assists, and 4.6 rebounds while shooting 44.7% from the field and 38.1% from behind the 3-point line.
In trading away Hayward and Rozier, the Hornets would clear over $106 million in future money.
Westbrook’s first season back home didn’t go as planned. The Lakers immediately became the favorites to win the NBA Championship with Westbrook on board but failed to make the playoffs altogether.
He finished the season averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.1 assists.
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