Three Westbrook Mega Trades Turn Lakers into NBA Championship Team
Forget the snake bit season, bad luck injuries, and silly pundits screaming nobody wants Russ. It’s not about Westbrook as a player. It’s about how his $47 million expiring contract can clean up a team’s salary cap in just a year.
Teams like the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, and Houston Rockets are in stages of rebuilding and will be looking to reduce salaries by dumping players with large long-term contracts for players with smaller expiring contracts. Trading for Russell Westbrook and his $47 million expiring contract can save one of those teams between $50 and $100 million in salaries, completely clean up their salary cap, and pick up a pair of valuable first round picks.
The Lakers’ target return on any Russell Westbrook trade is three legitimate rotation players who can start and complement superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and transform the team into a legit championship contender. The three players the Lakers hoped to start alongside LeBron and AD this past season were Westbrook, Horton-Tucker, and Nunn. Because of poor play and injuries, Horton-Tucker and Nunn were replaced by minimum salary players.
The Lakers’ goal this offseason is to trade Westbrook’s expiring contract, Horton-Tucker, and their 2027 and 2029 first round draft picks for three starter-quality rotation players who earn on average $20 million per year. While they would like to keep one of their draft picks, avoid taking back contracts longer than two years, and limit their luxury tax bill, the Lakers know next season is probably their best chance to win again this decade.
Here are four trades of Westbrook and the Lakers’ 2027 first round pick that should be available this summer and expanded versions of each trade that add Horton-Tucker and a 2029 first round pick for an important third player.
1. Indiana Pacers Trade
As potential trading partners, the Los Angeles Lakers and Indian Pacers are a perfect match. The Lakers need to trade Russell Westbrook and the Pacers need to dump the long-term contracts of Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon.
While there have been several variations discussed, the basic trade many expect to happen would be the Lakers trading Russell Westbrook and a 2027 first round pick to the Pacers for guards Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon. The Lakers would get a new starting backcourt that has size and can shoot. The Pacers would be thrilled to dump Hield’s 2-years and $39 million and Brogdon’s 3-years and $67 million for Russ’ $47 million and a first rounder.
That trade would leave the Lakers with Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and their 2029 first round draft pick as trading chips to pursue a starting 3&D wing or small forward like Jerami Grant, T.J. Warren, or Otto Porter, Jr. Instead of adding size via a wing, however, the Lakers might be smarter to expand the Pacers trade to include Indiana center Myles Turner in return for shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker and a 2029 first round draft pick.
Expanding the trade to include Myles Turner as well as Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon would dramatically upgrade the Lakers’ starting lineup, giving them three starters with annual salaries greater than $20 million. Turner, Hield, and Brogdon would replace Russ and two minimum salary starters and give the Lakers three better players who can stretch the floor on offense and have the size to guard multiple positions and switch on defense.
- Myles Turner, 26- years old, 6' 11", 250 lbs
12.9/7.1/1.9 and 50.9%/33.3% on 4.4 3PA/75.2%
- Buddy Hield, 29- years old, 6' 4", 220 lbs
15.6/4.4/2.8 and 44.7%/36.2% on 8.5 3PA/89.6%
- Malcolm Brogdon, 29-years old, 6' 5", 229 lbs
19.1/5.1/5.9 and 44.8%/31.2% on 5.2 3PA/85.6%
Starters: PG-Brogdon, SG-Hield, SF-James, PF-Davis, CE-Turner
Reserves: PG-Nunn, SG-Reaves, SF-Johnson, PF-Gabriel, CE-Howard
The Pacers’ trades are still my favorite two or three player trade. If the Lakers cannot get Turner, then they should trade for Hield and Brogdon and look to trade for or sign T.J. Warren or Otto Porter, Jr. as free agents.
2. Charlotte Hornets Trade
The Charlotte Hornets are the other NBA team that is most likely to become a Los Angeles Lakers’ Russ trading partner as they would love to dump Gordon Hayward’s 3-years and $91.5 million for Westbrook’s expiring $47 million.
The other player usually included to make Westbrook’s and Hayward’s salaries match for the trade is Kelly Oubre. For the Lakers to take on Gordon Hayward’s contract, the Hornets would have to include guard Terry Rozier. The Lakers would get a new starting point guard who’s a lethal shooter and a veteran starting small forward who is a perfect fit for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Pacers save almost $50 million in long-term salaries.
That trade would give the Lakers two of the three starters they need next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis and leave them with Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and their 2029 first round draft pick as major trading chips. Like with the Pacers, the Lakers would be smart to try and expand the trade to include Horton-Tucker and a second pick for Indiana’s P.J. Washington, a young 3&D wing who’d be excellent insurance should Hayward get injured.
Expanding the trade to include P.J. Washington as well as Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward would dramatically upgrade the Lakers’ starting lineup as Washington could easily start at shooting guard alongside Rozier at point. Hayward, Rozier, and Washington would replace Russ and two minimum salary starters and give L.A. three better players who can stretch the floor on offense and have the size to guard multiple positions and switch on defense.
- Gordon Hayward, 29-years old, 6' 5", 229 lbs
19.1/5.1/5.9 and 44.8%/31.2% on 5.2 3PA/85.6%
- Terry Rozier, 28-years old, 6' 1", 190 lbs
19.3/4.3/4.5 and 44.4%/37.4% on 8.1 3PA/85.2%
- P.J. Washington, 23-years old, 6' 7", 230 lbs
10.3/5.2/2.3 and 47.0%/36.5% on 4.6 3PA/71.6%
Starters: PG-Rozier, SG-Washington, SF-Hayward, PF-James, CE-Davis
Reserves: GP-Nunn, SG-Reaves, SF-Johnson, PF-Gabriel, CE-Howard
The Hornets’ trades are a close second to the Pacers’ trades. The difference to me is the versatility of the Pacers trade to go two bigs or small-ball-on-steroids that the Hornets deals doesn’t have although I love PJ Washington’s upside.
3. Houston Rockets Trade
The Rockets are the Lakers third option as a Westbrook trading partner with Los Angeles trading Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, and their 2027 first round pick for shooting guard Eric Gordon and point guard John Wall.
That trade would give the Lakers two of three starters they need next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis and leave them with Kendrick Nunn and their 2029 first round draft pick as key trading chips for a third new starter. Like with the Pacers and Hornets, the Lakers would be smart to try and expand the trade to include the Rockets’ stretch five center Christian Wood in return for Kendrick Nunn and the Lakers’ 2029 first round draft pick.
Expanding the trade to include Christian Wood as well as Eric Gordon and John Wall would dramatically upgrade the Lakers’ starting lineup as Gordon and Wall would start in the backcourt while Wood starts as stretch five center. The new trio of Gordon, Wall, and Wood as starters would be a major upgrade at both ends of the court over Russell Westbrook and the two minimum salary players who started games for most of the season for the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Eric Gordon, 33-years old, 6' 3", 215 lbs
13.4/2.0/2.7 and 47.5%/41.2% on 5.3 3PA/77.8%
- John Wall, 31-years old, 6' 3", 210 lbs
20.6/3.2/6.9 and 40.4%/31.7% on 6.2 3PA/85.2%
- Christian Wood, 26-years old, 6' 9", 214 lbs
17.9/10.1/2.3 and 50.1%/39.0% on 4.9 3PA/62.3%
Starters: PG-Wall, SG-Gordon, SF-James, PF-Davis, CE-Wood
Reserves: SG-Reaves, PF-Gabriel, CE-Howard
Final note on the Rockets trade is the Lakers do have to give up two rotation player in Nunn and Johnson to make the trade but they will also have Wall’s $47 million expiring contract to move at the deadline or next offseason.
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