While most NBA pundits and front office execs expect the Lakers to end up trading Russell Westbrook and their two first round picks to the Pacers, there’s a case to be made that the Jazz could be better fits as trade partners.
The Lakers almost pulled the trigger before camp on trading Westbrook and two picks to the Pacers for Turner and Hield. In the end, however, they were not sure those two would make them contenders so decided to wait. Criticized for not finishing the Pacers trade, Pelinka may have made the right decision as the Lakers had a chance to get glimpse of the future as multiple red hot Jazz 3-point shooters aced last night’s Lakers’ trade tryout.
While many Lakers’ fans were dismayed at the favored Lakers ending their brief two-game winning streak and losing to the Jazz last night, the silver lining is the Lakers front office got to visualize what a Utah trade could do. Imagine if the Lakers could trade Westbrook and draft capital for Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Kelly Olynyk, and Jarred Vanderbilt. The Lakers’ size and shooting issues would suddenly be ancient history.
There’s also been no lack of teams interested in acquiring one or both of the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 unprotected post-LeBron James first round draft picks. Interested teams include the Jazz, Pacers, Spurs, and Hornets. Ideally, the Lakers want a two, three, or four team trade where they can put together a best of what’s available from the interested teams. That’s the only way the Lakers will be able to get more than two impact players.
After watching this young Lakers team over the first 8 games of the season, it’s easy to see how good they could be with more size, shooting, and versatility. They’re literally a couple of good trades from being a top team. The Lakers clearly know now what they need and have a good idea of what is available. It’s time for Rob Pelinka to take a hard look and decide whether to pursue a blockbuster trade with the Indiana Pacers or the Utah Jazz.
Here are the three reasons why a Russell Westbrook and draft picks trade with Utah Jazz offers the Lakers the best opportunity to create a better, deeper, more versatile roster than trading with any of other partners.
1. The Jazz value the Lakers picks the most
The first reason the Los Angeles Lakers should trade Russell Westbrook and their two picks to the Utah Jazz is no general manger values L.A.’s 2027 and 2029 unprotected first round picks more than the Jazz’ Danny Ainge.
Ainge is convinced, as are many Lakers fans, that the team’s ownership and front office are so terrible at their jobs that those post-LeBron James and maybe even Anthony Davis first round picks could be extremely valuable.
So valuable that Ainge even offered to give the Lakers one of Utah’s three first round picks for 2023 plus a package of players including Bogdanovic for Westbrook and the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 unprotected first round picks.
Considering Russell Westbrook’s value at this point in time is as an expiring contract rather than as a desirable player, his recent excellent play coming off the bench could theoretically change one or more NBA teams’ minds. However, it’s the tantalizing prospect of the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 first round picks turning out to be top-5 picks because the Lakers will likely be horrible once LeBron retires just like they were once Kobe retired.
But Ainge’s eagerness to acquire the two Lakers picks clearly gives L.A. an edge in negotiating with Utah. In the end, Danny is betting he can read the tea leaves of what’s going to happen to the Lakers better than anyone else.
That means he’s probably willing if possible to give the Lakers whatever they want because bottom line, the Jazz want to be players in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes and right now they’re winning too often.
Danny Ainge obviously values the Lakers two unprotected first round draft picks more than any other potential Westbrook trade partner, which is the first reason the Lakers should seriously consider trading with the Jazz.
2. The Jazz can offer the most depth in players
The second reason the Lakers should look towards the Jazz as possibly their best Russell Westbrook trading partner is they have multiple legitimate rotation players who shoot the three and would give L.A. critical depth.
The Lakers desperately need a modern starting center, multiple quality volume 3-point shooters, and proven veteran backup forwards to reduce the minutes and workload on superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Utah Jazz essentially have a half dozen legitimate rotation players on tradeable contracts who can shoot the three and would be great fits and complements playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Assuming the Lakers don’t want to pay more luxury taxes, they need to bring back four players from the Jazz who not only are great fits as future starters or primary backups but also have salaries equal to $47 million.
The four players the Lakers should trade for are 25-year old power forward Lauri Markkanen, 30-year old shooting guard Jordan Clarkson, 31-year old center Kelly Olynyk, and 25-year old power forward Jarred Vanderbilt.
Here are those four players’ metrics and stats for this and last season:
-Lauri Markkanen, 25-year old power forward, 7' 0", 240 lbs
(2021–22) 11.5/5.7/1.3 shooting 44.5%/35.8%/86.8% on 11.5/6.2/2.6 shots
(2022–23) 22.2/9.4/2.7 shooting 51.5%/29.9%/85.0% on 16.3/6.7/4.0 shots
-Jordan Clarkson, 30-year old, 6' 5", 195 lbs
(2021–22) 16.0/3.5/2.5 shooting 41.9%/31.8%/82.8% on 14.1/7.6/3.2 shots
(2022–23) 17.4/4.8/5.3 shooting 41.8%/36.3%/70.7% on 15.3/8.0/2.4 shots
-Kelly Olynyk, 31-year old center, 6' 11", 240 lbs
(2021–22) 7.2/4.4/2.8 shooting 44.8%/33.6%/77.5% on 7.2/3.0/2.2 shots
(2022–23) 12.7/4.1/3.4 shooting 56.1%/59.4%/66.7% on 8.2/3.2/2.4 shots
-Jarred Vanderbilt, 25-year old shooting guard, 6' 9, 187lbs
(2021–22) 12.1/2.9/1.5 shooting 39.1%/37.7%/81.7% on 10.8/8.1/0.8 shots
(2022–23) 10.7/3.0/1.1 shooting 39.4%/38.6%/87.5% on 9.9/5.7/0.8 shots
Markkanen is the one player whom the Lakers must get in this trade to make it a better move for the Lakers than trading Westbrook to the Pacers. Without him, the Jazz’ package is only worth one unprotected pick.
Markkanen would fit perfectly in the Lakers’ starting lineup along with James at the three, Davis at the five, and Walker IV at the two. Markkanen will be a good test of just how much Danny Ainge wants the Lakers’ picks.
The trade would be a huge win for the Lakers, giving them one high level starter with needed size and shooting and three elite role players including quality backups for LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Lauri Markkanen.
The Jazz are the only possible Russell Westbrook trade partner who has four legitimate rotation players who would be great fits with the Lakers and whose combined salaries total $47 million so that the trade is tax neutral.
The Utah Jazz obviously have the widest and deepest portfolio of legitimate rotation players for the Lakers to chose from in trade Russell Westbrook. That’s the second reason the Lakers should trade Russ to the Utah Jazz.
3. The Jazz will give back a 2023 first round pick
The third reason the Jazz should be the Lakers most promising Westbrook trade partner is they have a surplus of first round picks and are willing to give the Lakers one of their three 2023 first round picks as part of the trade.
Ainge first brought up the option of giving a first round pick back to secure their 2027 and 2028 unprotected first round draft picks when Utah and Los Angeles were discussing a Westbrook for Bogdanovic trade this offseason.
Getting back a 2023 first round pick back would allow the Lakers to put together an attractive package to go after the Hornets’ Terry Rozier to be the starting point guard to complete a championship starting lineup.
That would give the Lakers a dynamic and deep 10-man rotation that should elevate them to legitimate championship contender status. If Pelinka can pull off these two trades, Lakers might even be favorites.
-Terry Rozier, 28-year old point guard, 6' 1", 190 lbs
(2021–22) 19.3/4.3/4.5 shooting 44.4%/37.4%/85.2% on 16.0/8.1/2.4 shots
(2022–23) 23.5/7.0/8.5 shooting 39.5%/40.0%/87.5% on 16.3/15.0/8.0 shots
A starting lineup of Terry Rozier, Lonnie Walker IV, LeBron James, Lauri Markkanen, and Anthony Davis could be the best in the league as could be a second string of Schroeder, Clarkson, Brown, Vanderbilt, and Olynyk.
That’s a 10-man rotation that not only can compete for a championship this season but also positions the Lakers with a great portfolio of tradeable players in reasonable contracts to make follow up trades at the deadline.
Here’s a final breakdown of the three team trade , which cannot be executed until November 21st, when Kelly Olynyk will become eligible to traded as a recently traded player. Lakers also waive Damian Jones.