The Los Angeles Lakers have engaged the Indiana Pacers on trade talks involving a swap of Russell Westbrook for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, but those discussions are now dead because the Lakers refused to include a second first-round pick, according to The Athletic.
While the Lakers would be willing to send out one of their available first-round picks, specifically the 2027 selection, the Pacers believe they should get two of them — one for the trouble of taking on Westbrook’s contract and another in exchange for Turner and Hield.
The Lakers’ reluctance to send out future draft assets is nothing new. At last season’s deadline they reportedly turned down a chance to swap Westbrook for John Wall because they didn’t want to attach a pick to the deal. This, however, is the most specifics we’ve gotten regarding a potential Westbrook deal this summer.
Earlier this month, Westbrook, as expected, opted into the final year of his contract worth $47.1 million. While the front office and coaching staff has been honest with Westbrook about needing him to adjust his role, they have been supportive in public.
“We love everyone on our roster,” new coach Darvin Ham said during one of the Lakers’ Summer League games. “And until you’re not on our roster, you’re ours, and we’re going to try to get better with our group. That’s just the bottom line of it.”
During an appearance on All The Smoke podcast earlier this month, Ham was more direct: “I’m thrilled to coach Russ. They try to dump on Russ, I’m like that was one of the things that got me excited about this job. He and I have had a great report since I’ve taken over the job, man.”
Behind the scenes, however, it’s clear the Lakers are working to trade him. In addition to this most recent Pacers rumor, there has been plenty of discussion about a(though it’s hard to see why the Nets would agree to that). There was also this bit of intel from Dave McMenamin on the latest Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe: “Small sample size last year with Russ, but it’s pretty darn clear that LeBron’s seen enough and he has no interest in going into another year with Russ as his teammate.”
It’s no surprise the Lakers are trying to move Westbrook. Acquiring him never made sense in the first place and went even worse than expected in his first season with the club. While Westbrook certainly wasn’t the Lakers’ only issue, he was a terrible fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, plus he played a major role in the team finishing 21st in defense. Despite the best efforts of the organization, Westbrook seems unwilling to change his style, and it’s hard to imagine any of last season’s problems would suddenly disappear this season.
Other teams are well aware of Westbrook’s flaws and massive contract, though, which actually makes trading him difficult. For now, it’s perfectly reasonable that the Lakers want to hold off on moving both of their first-round picks, which represent their best trade assets, in a non-Irving deal. Even if there are risks with acquiring the former All-Star, and the chance of pulling off a deal are slim, his upside is so great that it makes sense to wait until his situation is resolved one way or another.
At some point, though, the Lakers may have to accept that a Turner and Hield package is the best they can do for Westbrook. And while attaching multiple first-round picks would be a steep price to pay, they may have to bite the bullet in order to maximize the final few seasons of James’ career.