The Lakers continuous declarations that Russell Westbrook remained a vital piece moving forward was clearly false, but the Patrick Beverley acquisition has removed any sliver of doubt. The two guards have strongly disliked each other ever since Beverley tore Westbrook’s meniscus by diving at his knees during the 2013 playoffs.
Although Los Angeles desires a Westbrook trade, it’s difficult to find a landing spot. His contract only runs through this season; however, he is owed a whopping $47,063,478, which is 38% of the salary cap. Not many teams have enough expendable salary to absorb Westbrook’s contract, and the contenders who do will not want to help solve the Lakers problems.
Los Angeles also lacks assets in the form of both young talent and picks. The Stepien Rule prohibits franchises from being without future consecutive 1st round picks. For example, a team could be without their 2025 and 2029 1st rounders, but not their 2026 and 2027 1st rounders. The seven-year rule also prohibits teams from trading picks that are more than seven years away, as well as pushing protections on the 2029 pick to the 2030 draft.
Because of these rules, the Lakers can only trade their 2027 and 2029 1st round picks. Opposing teams hold all of the leverage, as they know Los Angeles absolutely must trade Westbrook for multiple contributors in order to be a contender. LeBron James is 37-years-old, so the window is minuscule.
With all of those factors considered, here are three reasonable win-win Westbrook trades:
Westbrook to Indiana Pacers
- Russell Westbrook
- Max Christie
- 2027 1st (top 3 protected; becomes 2027 2nd and 2029 2nd)
- 2029 1st (unprotected)
Why the Pacers accept: Indiana is fully rebuilding around Tyrese Haliburton, so they are shopping veterans for young talent and draft picks. The Pacers don’t need Hield at shooting guard with rookie Bennedict Mathurin and Chris Duarte on the roster. Hield is also 29-years-old and owed about $40,000,000 over the next two seasons. 30-year-old TJ McConnell isn’t vital either because rookie Andrew Nembhard projects as a capable backup point guard.
Losing Myles Turner stings, but the promising duo of Isaiah Jackson and Goga Bitadze leaves Indiana with solid options in the frontcourt. Turner is a flight risk as well because of his expiring contract. In return for these three talented players, the Pacers are receiving a lightly protected 1st, an unprotected 1st (the pinnacle of trade assets), and rookie Max Christie. They must pay Westbrook, but that lasts only one season. It’s a tremendous haul, and the trade also boosts Indiana’s chances of drafting Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson in the 2023 draft.
Why the Lakers accept: The Lakers are essentially trading every asset they own, but the return considerably improves the roster. Turner provides elite rim protection, and his ability to shoot the three makes him a great fit on the court next to Anthony Davis. Turner is also injury insurance at center should Davis miss extended time again. Meanwhile, Hield will space the floor for LeBron – a deadly passer – while McConnell gives them a steady backup point guard who facilitates and defends.
The starting lineup would be Beverley, Hield, LeBron, Davis, and Turner. In this scenario, Los Angeles would actually field a dangerous defense. The spacing is also incredible, so LeBron’s offensive game is maximized. The Lakers still wouldn’t be a premier contender, but it’s certainly possible that they escape the West and hoist another championship trophy.
Westbrook to Utah Jazz
- Russell Westbrook
- 2027 1st (top 5 protected; becomes 2027 2nd and 2029 2nd)
- 2029 1st (unprotected)
Why the Jazz accept: Utah received a historic package for Rudy Gobert, and Donovan Mitchell is on the trading block. With the Jazz starting to rebuild, assets are desired over veterans. Their veterans are still talented, but they don’t fit the new timeline and would potentially ruin their draft pick. Bogdanovic is the youngest at 33-years-old, and Conley’s contract remains undesirable.
The Jazz will remove these burdens while scooping a lightly protected 1st and unprotected 1st. That’s a fantastic haul for players who are past their prime and not cheap. The Jazz will not get another offer that matches this value, so Danny Ainge would pounce on this deal. Utah’s treasure chest of draft picks will truly be formidable after all of the veterans are traded.
Why the Lakers accept: Despite their age, the trio would be key pieces for a Lakers championship run. Conley can run the offense while acting as a lethal spot up three-point shooter. He shot over 40% from three for the past two seasons, and his playmaking blends well with the Lakers. Beverley is a capable ball handler, but Conley is a true point guard. Bogdanovic, on the other hand, adds scoring off the dribble and three-point shooting. In his three seasons with Utah, Bogdanovic averaged 18.4 PPG on an efficient 44/39/88 shooting split. The final piece is 6’8” forward Rudy Gay. Although he is 36-years-old, Gay can soak up minutes off the bench and give the Lakers forward depth.
The starting lineup would be Conley, Beverley, Bogdanovic, LeBron, and Davis. Los Angeles has plenty of ball handling, three-point shooting, and off the dribble scoring through this lineup. The defense would be suspect, but it could hold if Davis returns to his DPOY-candidate status. Trading two first rounders with those protections is troublesome; however, the upgrade is sizable.
Westbrook to Charlotte Hornets
- Russell Westbrook
- 2027 1st (unprotected)
- 2025 2nd
- 2027 2nd
Why the Hornets accept: The murky Miles Bridges situation dampens the Hornets immediate talent, and they are not a contender even with Bridges playing. At best, the Hornets are the 10th seed in the East. Because success isn’t realistic, moving their veterans and clearing cap space while acquiring draft capital is the smartest path forward. Hayward is 32-years-old and injury prone, so he doesn’t fit the timeline. Plumlee is also 32, and the Hornets just drafted Mark Williams to replace him. After next season, Charlotte would possess immense cap space and a valuable unprotected 1st rounder.
Why the Lakers accept: Hayward is an injury risk, but he still thrives on offense. The 6’7” wing can score off the dribble or punish opponents from three as a catch and shoot player. Hayward’s playmaking remains viable, so the Lakers would have two all-around offensive wings. Plumlee, meanwhile, is a suitable backup center who sets solid picks and rolls to the basket efficiently. He would instantly be one of the better reserve centers in the NBA, which is necessary with Davis’ perennial injuries.
This package is inferior to the previous ones, but the Lakers are still acquiring impact players who bolster the depth chart. Hayward especially has become underrated due to his many injuries, so his impact could be immense if he stays healthy. Plus, Los Angeles keeps one of its first rounders in this trade. This trade should be Plan C, but it improves a mediocre roster.