Your Los Angeles Lakers are aware they may have to strike a deal with Russell Westbrook. LA’s most expensive player is making $47.1 million to come off the bench this season, and his exorbitant deal has hampered how best to mold the team to become the all-star talents of LeBron James and to suit Anthony Davis.
Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack post that the Los Angeles front office, led by team vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka, has been keeping tabs on Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier since at least last spring. Though Los Angeles would love to add “Scary Terry” to their roster, the team appears to have reservations about another veteran contract long rumored to be included in a possible deal: prone forward Gordon Hayward.
Hayward remains a pretty great offensive player when healthy, although he’s lost a step defensively thanks to various illnesses over the years. The 6’7″ Butler forward is averaging 18.9 points (on .495/.360/.806 shooting splits), 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 0.7 steals per in seven healthy games for Charlotte this season Night. Should he stay healthy, the 32-year-old could offer ground clearance and versatility for the Lakers on both forwards alongside LeBron James, with Anthony Davis presumably still jumping his less-favored center position.
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Stein notes that Los Angeles appears to be clinging to the option of taking Hayward’s money back in a store to put the money to work in a trade. A big part of LA’s reluctance is that Hayward is guaranteed to earn $31.5 million in the 2023-24 NBA season, boosting the team’s long-hoped for ability to make a splash in free agency in 2023 or less is nullified.
The 6’1″ Rozier, 28, has missed all but two games this season due to an ankle injury. In those two games, the Louisville product averaged 23.5 points (with a .395/.400/.875 slash line) and 8 .5 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per night He is a career 37.6% three-pointer on 5.3 attempts per game.
A hypothetical Lakers starting five with Rozier at this point, Lonnie Walker IV or Austin Reaves as shooting guard, Hayward as small forward, James as power forward and Davis at center would be a significant upgrade given how much it would be, two to have new knockdown shooters open up lanes for the two stars of LA. Los Angeles head coach Darvin Ham could alternate Patrick Beverley as point guard and Rozier as shooting guard (a position he’s become familiar with with the Hornets), but the team would give up a lot of size in the backcourt with that lineup .