While a bulk of NBA free agency is in the rearview mirror, the Los Angeles Lakers are still one team in search of roster upgrades in hopes of getting back into championship contention in 2022-23.
Considering the Lakers only have one open roster spot, any potential moves would likely have to come via trade. It’s no secret that the Lakers have been trying to unload Russell Westbrook’s $47 million but to this point have not been able to.
The Lakers have been linked to Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, hoping to reunite him with LeBron James. But whether or not Irving will even be dealt will not be resolved until Kevin Durant’s situation is sorted out.
L.A. has some reported backup plans if they are not able to acquire Irving with shooting being a big need for the team.
It appears the Lakers may be ready to move on to those as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported on “NBA Today” that the Lakers have re-engaged in talks with the Indiana Pacers on a number of different potential trade scenarios that may or may not include Westbrook:
“Lakers general manager and president of pro basketball personnel Rob Pelinka has been making phone calls to teams about trying to trade Russell Westbrook out of town. Now, the latest intelligence I have is that things have not moved in terms of the Brooklyn front, there is no traction on a deal that would involve sending Russell Westbrook out and bringing Kyrie Irving in. One thing I have learned over the last day or two tangentially is there have been some talks re-engaged between the Lakers and the Indiana Pacers. Now that would be centered around a Buddy Hield deal and could be a deal that includes Russell Westbrook if you’re talking about also having Myles Turner in that deal, or perhaps a secondary move where you would be talking about a Talen Horton-Tucker type of package where you can get Buddy Hield. So we could see whether that would affect Russell [Westbrook] or not.”
The Lakers have had interest in Buddy Hield for years now as the former client of Rob Pelinka’s is known for his knockdown shooting. Pelinka almost brought him to the Lakers last summer but instead opted to acquire Westbrook.
If the Lakers are going to include Westbrook in a trade then Indiana would likely need significant draft compensation in return. They are one of the only teams with remaining cap space though and are going through a rebuild so could be willing to take back Westbrook’s expiring contract if the Lakers include one or both of their available first-round picks in 2027 and 2029.
The Lakers signed two centers this offseason in Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant so don’t exactly have a need for Myles Turner, who also has an expiring contract and will be looking for a big deal next summer. He is someone they have been linked to in the past as well though as a stretch big to pair with Anthony Davis.
If the Lakers go for a smaller deal that doesn’t involve Westbrook then as McMenamin reported, it could involved Talen Horton-Tucker for Hield. While it would require the Lakers to add some additional salaries, it would allow the Pacers to get off the final two years of Hield’s around $20 million per-year contract while bringing in the 21-year-old Horton-Tucker, who would reunite with his college backcourt mate at Iowa State in Tyrese Haliburton.
Westbrook, James, Davis spoke about making things work in 2022-23
If the Lakers opt for the trade that doesn’t involve Westbrook then he will have to find a way to make it work alongside James and Davis in the upcoming season.
It appears the three stars are aware of that possibility as they reportedly spoke on the phone and discussed their commitment to one another and how they can have a successful season.
Darvin Ham has also spoken highly of Westbrook and what he can bring to the table, so it seems that things are trending towards the point guard remaining in L.A. for the final year of his contract.
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