The Los Angeles Lakers’ 2021-22 season has come and gone, and it was a disappointing one after failing to reach the postseason.
The Lakers’ blockbuster trade for Russell Westbrook last summer didn’t work out as planned as his play underwhelmed and the fit with LeBron James and Anthony Davis was not ideal.
Now, Westbrook is expected to pick up his $47 million player option for the 2022-23 season, so the Lakers have to make a decision on what they want to do with the point guard.
All signs point towards the Lakers trying to trade Westbrook, although it will be no easy task given his diminished play and massive salary.
It will be an expiring contract though, so some teams may be interested in taking that on in order to unload more long-term salaries. According to recent reports, both the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers may be interested in doing that.
For the Hornets, they would be looking to trade players like Gordon Hayward, Kelly Oubre Jr. and perhaps Terry Rozier, all of which still have multiple years remaining on their contracts. And for the Pacers, it would likely be Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield.
The Lakers have their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks available, so those can perhaps be used as sweeteners in any potential deal.
Both of those would represent solid options for the Lakers if the recent reports are true, but which option would be the best? That is what the Lakers Nation staff debated in our latest roundtable:
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane):
Assuming any draft capital the Lakers would have to attach to Westbrook is the same in both deals, I prefer the Hornets trade of Kelly Oubre Jr. and Gordon Hayward. On the court, I would definitely rather have Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon, but contracts matter and the Lakers are going to need flexibility to pivot in a post-LeBron era sooner rather than later.
With only two years remaining on Hayward’s deal and one on Oubre, the Hornets offer provides that flexibility earlier than the Pacers with Hield (two years remaining) and Brogdon (three years remaining). Add to the equation that the Lakers need wings more than guards, plus similar injury concerns with both deals, and I have to lean Hornets despite preferring the Pacers duo on the court.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH):
Between the two potential trade packages I will lean towards the Pacers deal with Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield. There are major injury concerns with both deals so that can be tossed out, but honestly I think Brogdon is the slightly better overall player to Hayward while Hield and his career 40% three-point shooting remains the ideal player to place alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
At his best, Brogdon would provide the Lakers a secondary creator and solid shooter who has shown he can play next to a ball-dominant superstar from his time in Milwaukee next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has also shown the ability to meld with a skilled big man from his time with Domantas Sabonis in Indiana so the fit should be good. He has also been a good defender through his career and the Lakers sorely need perimeter defense help.
Quite frankly any deal that gets the Lakers out of the Russell Westbrook business is a good one, but the Pacers deal brings some much-needed perimeter help that the Lakers sorely need and is the better overall fit in my opinion.
Damian Burchardt (@D_Burchardt):
On paper, Hayward and Oubre fit better with LeBron and Davis around them — the former being a proven shooter and the latter a young, defensive-minded wing. But 2021-22 showed that judging things based on how they look on paper can lead to catastrophic results.
Advanced stats show Oubre has never really made a difference on defense, which might have something to do with the fact the Lakers would be his fourth team in as many seasons. And Hayward is a 32-year-old who’s missed a third of games over the last three years, created only a third of his shots in 2021-22, and will earn over $30 million in the two seasons to come.
Brogdon is as injury-prone, but his $22 million salary should remain a tradable asset in the future. However, he’s nowhere near as usage-heavy as Westbrook, can create for himself and teammates, and emerged as a solid scoring option for the Pacers over the last two years.
Also, the Pacers really felt Brogdon’s impact on defense, as they gave up an extra 5.3 points per 100 possession without him on the floor compared to the 29-year-old’s on-court numbers.
Hield comes off the worst shooting season of his career — and he still made 36.6% of his triples. He’s a menace in transition, partly explaining why the Pacers scored an extra 16.5 points-per-100 (!) with him in play. And his contract is front-loaded, meaning he’ll earn a decent $20.5 in 2022-23 and $2 million less the year after.
Unless Charlotte throws in Terry Rozier in any Westbrook deal, the Lakers would be better off with the Pacers package.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
Let me just start off by saying that I like both of these potential options and if either are on the table then the Lakers should jump on it immediately.
If I have my choice though then I think I would lean slightly towards the Hornets’ offer. The way the NBA is trending, the teams that have success are the ones with big, switchable wings defensively.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, that is the one thing the Lakers have lacked the last couple of seasons.
Even though Hayward certainly has his injury concerns, I think he would be a solid fit alongside James and Davis as someone who can play on or off the ball, can shoot and has some size on the defensive end.
While I may like Brogdon and Hield as individual players better, the Lakers already have a ton of guards on the roster like Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves and Malik Monk if they are able to keep him in free agency.
If I was the Lakers, I would try to get PJ Washington as well in the Hornets deal although it seems unlikely that Charlotte will be willing to part with him.
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