We’re going to hear a ton of Russell Westbrook trade rumors here within the next several weeks now that he’s finished up an ugly season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook himself took to the media immediately after Los Angeles closed up shop on a 49-loss campaign, seemingly going after star Lakers forward LeBron James and other members of the organization.
The backdrop here were major struggles on the part of Westbrook to fit in with the Lakers’ aging core, James and Anthony Davis included.
It’s led to widespread speculation that the Lakers could look to pull off a Russell Westbrook trade come summer time. Unfortunately, his contract is going to make it incredibly hard for that to come to fruition. The former NBA MVP has a player option worth $47.06 million for the 2021-22 season — one that he will undoubtedly pick up.
Interestingly enough, reports indicate that a rebuilding team in that of the Pacers might be interested in acquiring Westbrook.
For Indiana, it might be about the team moving off long-term contracts while building around the young backcourt combo of Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte. Picking up Westbrook’s expiring contract in addition to either young assets and/or draft picks could make sense for Indiana. Below, we look at how a deal of this ilk would look.
Russell Westbrook trade would have to include Los Angeles Lakers giving up draft picks
It’s highly unlikely that the Lakers will be able to move Westbrook without changing their stance. Reportedly, general manager Rob Pelinka and Los Angeles’ brass is against yielding the one first-round pick they can offer up. That is to say, the team’s top-30 selection in 2027.
No team in its right mind is going to pick up an aging and regressing Westbrook with his huge 2022-23 cap hit without being rewarded for it in the back end. This is especially true when it comes to an Indiana squad that’s in full-scale rebuild mode after missing out on the playoffs for a second consecutive season and losing 55 games in 2021-22.
In addition to their 2027 first-round pick, the Lakers would have to offer up multiple second-round selections to get this done. They have two second-round picks in the 2023 NBA Draft, both of which could be used to entice Indiana into taking on Westbrook’s contract.
Related: 2022 NBA mock draft
Los Angeles Lakers young assets in potential Russell Westbrook trade
21-year-old guard Talen Horton-Tucker was seen as a rising star heading into the 2021-22 season. After some major struggles on his part, we’re not sure how much he’d move the needle for Indiana. What we do know is that there’s talent there, and Horton-Tucker closed up the campaign on a strong note.
- Talen Horton-Tucker stats (final seven games): 14.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 44% shooting
Perhaps, Los Angeles can entice Indiana into taking a chance on Tucker by agreeing to acquire another veteran on a long-term deal in addition to the contracts it would have to bring in to make the financials of any Westbrook trade work.
Former undrafted free agent Austin Reaves also becomes an option. He played well in limited action as a rookie this past season — scoring 31 points in a season-ending win over the Denver Nuggets.
Breaking down potential Russell Westbrook trade to the Pacers
- Pacers get: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, 2027 first-round pick, two second-round picks
- Lakers get: Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield, T.J. McConnell
Is this enough to move the needle for Los Angeles? Is it better than waiving Westbrook? That is to say, are the Lakers a legit contender with Brogdon and Hield in the mix as their starting backourt? It’s a question Pelinka and Co. would have to ask themselves.
What we do know is that Los Angeles had a deal in place to acquire Hield from the Sacramento Kings last summer before turning its attention to Westbrook. He’s a much better three-point shooter and would help space the floor. As for Brogdon, he’d end up being the Lakers’ best point guard since all the way back in 2012-13 when Steve Nash was finishing up his career.
- Malcolm Brogdon stats (2019-22): 18.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.3 APG, 45% FG, 35% 3-point
Now, why would Indiana pull off this specific Russell Westbrook trade? Well, it’s rather simple. It has no need for a 29-year-old Brogdon after the team acquired Tyrese Haliburton in a mid-season trade with the Sacramento Kings and used a 2021 lottery selection on fellow guard Chris Duarte.
Moving Brogdon and Hield would also save some insane amount of cash beyond the 2022-23 campaign. While Westbrook is owed $47.06 million next season, he comes off the books in 2023-24. As for Brogdon and Hield, they are set to count a combined $40-plus million against the cap that season.
Being able to acquire two young players and three draft picks while moving off three veteran contracts for Westbrook would be a win. Even if the Pacers simply opt to buy Westbrook out, that rings true.