What Do Los Angeles Lakers Really Want in a Russell Westbrook Trade?

The Lakers have moved on from naïve dreams of trading for Kyrie Irving and fatal fantasies about running it back with Russell Westbrook. Now they need to figure out what they really want in a Russell Westbrook trade.

The Lakers’ position according to insiders is that they will not include both of their two available first round draft picks in a Westbrook trade unless the trade transforms them into a legitimate contender to win a championship. The Lakers’ current public position is none of their trade options, including the Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, elevate the team sufficiently to justify giving up two unprotected first round draft picks.

Per the insiders, the Lakers are not willing to take back more salary than they send out in a trade because of the luxury tax impact. Nor are they willing to take back contracts longer than LeBron James’ commitment. Finally, after trading Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson for Patrick Beverley, the Lakers have over $30 million in potential cap space next summer, which they could keep if they only took back expiring contracts.

The good news is the Lakers currently have two excellent opportunities to trade Russell Westbrook and draft capital for at least two legitimate starters or rotation players who would help the team’s need for size and shooting. The best fit would be the Pacers’ Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, which would likely require two first round picks. The alternative could be the Jazz’ Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, who might cost just one pick.

Let’s take a look at both Westbrook trades and analyze each trade’s pluses and minuses and try to figure out which trade makes the most sense for the Lakers right now and what will be the major factors driving their decision.

The Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner and Buddy Hield

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Contrary to what the Lakers would like you to believe, trading Russell Westbrook and two first round draft picks for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield would transform the Lakers into legitimate championship contenders.

The Pacers trade is clearly the Lakers’ best option to build a starting lineup and a roster that could legitimately compete for another NBA championship provided superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis could stay healthy. What makes the Pacers’ trade the Lakers’ best option is Myles Turner, who’s the perfect modern two-way center the Lakers and head coach Darvin Ham need to make the Buck’s 4-out offense and drop coverage defense work.

Turner’s a 26-year old, 6' 11", 250 lb center who averaged 12.9/7.1/1.0 while shooting 50.9/33.3/75.2%. He led the league in blocks the past two seasons and is a career 34.9% 3-point shooter who can effectively stretch the floor. Aside from being the perfect modern center to fill the Brook Lopez role in Ham’s system as the Lakers’ stretch five rim protector, Turner also gives Anthony Davis the perfect front court mate to dominate the next five years.

Most importantly, Turner gives the Lakers an elite rim protector on the court all 48 minutes of a game and the versatility to play two bigs with Turner and Davis or a small-ball-on-steroids lineup with AD at five like in the bubble. Right now, the Lakers’ biggest weakness is lack of a proven starting center. No disrespect to Thomas Bryant or Damian Jones but there is simply no way the Lakers are going to win a championship with either of them at the five.

Trading Westbrook and two picks for Turner and Hield would be the smartest move the Lakers could make. Despite their claims otherwise, they do know Turner and Hield make them a championship team

The Utah Jazz’ Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic

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Everything in the media about Danny Ainge coveting the Lakers’ 2027 and 2029 unprotected first round draft picks and L.A. being interested in trading Russell Westbrook for Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic is just posturing.

What this is about is the Lakers convincing the Pacers to accept Russell Westbrook plus one unprotected pick and one pick swap for Turner and Hield so the Lakers can keep an available first round pick for midseason. The Pacers want to move Buddy Hield’s two-year contract and are willing to take on Westbrook’s expiring contract for two unprotected picks. Hopefully, they will ultimately agree to accept a pick swap instead of a second pick.

What makes the Jazz and Knicks deal a logical trading partner for the Lakers is the list of legitimate rotation players like Utah’s Conley, Bogdanovic, Beasley, and Clarkson and New York’s Rose and Fournier. There’s also Danny Ainge’s fascination with stealing what what he envisions as two of the NBA’s most valuable and heavily coveted future draft picks: Lakers 2027 and 2029 Unprotected Post LeBron First Round Picks.

Could the Lakers put together a Westbrook trade with Utah/New York that matched or exceeded what the they could get from the Pacers for two picks or was close to what the Pacers were offering but would only cost one pick? The Lakers could put together a group of three or four elite shooters from the Jazz and Knicks but none of them are better than Buddy Hield nor plus defenders. Additionally, most of them have multiple year contracts.

Two only players whom the Lakers would be seriously interested in from the Jazz and Knicks would be Bogdanovic and Reddish, two wings that would be great fits. But those two are not better than Turner and Hield. Trading for Bogdanovic and Reddish would also cause the Lakers to switch back to James and Davis at the four and five rather than starting unproven Bryant or Jones at the five. A Davis, James, Bogdan front court could work.

In the end, the Jazz and Knick trade could lead to a Lakers trade of Kendrick Nunn for Cam Reddish but it’s nothing more than posturing by the Lakers to see if they steal Turner and Hield with just Russ and one pick and one swap.

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LakerTom

LakerTom

Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of Lakerholics.com, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.