In one of the more obvious moves of the 2022 offseason, it appears as though Russell Westbrook is not bound for free agency. The former MVP has a player option worth $47.1 million, and according to ESPN, he is "expected" to do so. While Westbrook still has time to make a final decision, Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned the expectation that he will opt in during a segment about his enthusiasm for new Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham, so for the time being, it appears to be a fairly safe assumption.
Westbrook initially signed a supermax contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016. That deal kicked in for the 2017-18 season, but he technically has spent each season of the deal thus far on a different team. He started it with the Thunder and then spent a season each with the Rockets, Wizards and Lakers. That extension contained the option that Westbrook is now expected to exercise.
Picking up the option does not guarantee that Westbrook will be a Laker next season. They could still potentially trade him, and given his status as an expiring contract, other teams with longer deals to offload might be interested. However, all reports have suggested that the Lakers are not interested in attaching draft picks to move off Westbrook. That is going to complicate negotiations with teams eager to fleece the desperate Lakers.
Last season was the worst of Westbrook's career. He made little effort to adjust his playing style to a roster that needed defense and cutting, not reckless shooting and an abundance of turnovers. While other teams may be able to find value in his declining skill set, this move would be a no-brainer for Westbrook financially. No team in the NBA would willingly pay him $47.1 million next season. The Lakers don't have a choice in the matter once he picks up the option.