What would it look like if the Los Angeles Lakers pivot and keep Russell Westbrook next season?

It’s a question the organization has been asking itself over the last few weeks as it regroups from a disastrous 2021-22 season.

Though Westbrook can technically become a free agent and leave L.A. this summer, all indications point to Westbrook exercising his $47.1 million player option by June 29 and entering the offseason as a Laker.

As The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported last week, the Lakers are now strongly considering the possibility of keeping Westbrook because of the hardball stance the league is currently taking in trade negotiations.

Teams have been demanding the inclusion of at least one first-round pick to take on Westbrook’s massive expiring contract, according to league sources. Rival teams know how much of a public trainwreck last season was for the Lakers, and they’re not looking to do Los Angeles any favors by helping them off of Westbrook’s contract.

The Lakers have four options with Westbrook: they can trade him, waive and stretch him, buy him out, or run it back with him next season. Rivals believe Los Angeles has to trade him ahead of training camp because the situation is untenable, especially after Westbrook’s exit-interview comments deflected blame toward LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the franchise.

But the Lakers don’t subscribe to that theory. As of now, they have no intention of using a first-round pick to facilitate a Westbrook trade, according to league sources.

And it’s not merely a bluff or tactic to try to regain leverage in trade talks. That may be an ancillary motive, sure, but per league sources, there is a sentiment among some within the franchise that the right coach and a better supporting cast could smooth over Westbrook’s awkward fit with James and Davis.

Despite the Lakers’ due diligence with their various roster-building paths, retaining Westbrook would be a grave mistake.

There is no salvaging the situation. He’s unwilling to adapt — and clearly unaware that he needs to. Unless the Lakers are willing to punt on another James-Davis season, their best option is to either trade Westbrook — and send out a first-round pick or two if the market doesn’t soften — or to send him home and proceed without him next season.