The pros and cons of trading Russell Westbrook to the Pacers

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook brings the ball up court during a game last season.
Rumors of the Lakers trading Russell Westbrook continue, and the Indiana Pacers seem a logical team in rebuild mode that might be interested.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
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Hello everyone, it’s Dan Woike from the Los Angeles Times with the latest edition of the Lakers newsletter. We’re flying into your email inbox with takes hotter than the pavement in the San Gabriel Valley, where it’s been 220 degrees this past week.

Let’s talk about Russell Westbrook and trades. Just because it’s a new week, it doesn’t mean we should tackle a new topic. After looking at the Utah Jazz last week, let’s look at the Indiana Pacers and really unpack the argument for simply standing pat.


Pace yourself

Maybe salvation exists in Indianapolis.

The Pacers, one of a handful of teams squarely in a rebuilding phase, have always been a logical partner for the Lakers, especially with the team’s previous flirtation with Buddy Hield.

As it became clear that the Lakers would entertain trading Westbrook, a reality as soon as it became clear that his fit with the roster was as awkward as a junior high slow dance, the pairing between the two teams is a fit.

The basic framework generally consists of the Lakers sending Westbrook and draft picks to Indiana for Hield and center Myles Turner, who will be a free agent next summer.

There are some obvious hiccups to the discussed deal. There is Hield’s contract — he’s owed $18 million next season. It’s a large enough number for the Lakers to think twice about acquiring one of the NBA’s most efficient and high-volume three-point shooters considering their eye toward future flexibility. There’s also Hield’s defensive shortcomings and dust-ups in previous stops, but let’s ignore that for now.

Turner’s a top-notch shot blocker and rim protector with the ability to stretch the court on offense. Injuries have plagued him, which makes him like a lot of Lakers trade targets this offseason — the reality of doing business when you’re operating from a position of weakness.

But he’s young, not turning 27 until March, and defensive-minded, checking some much-needed boxes for the Lakers.


Like so many of these scenarios, the question the Lakers need to consider is whether these acquisitions significantly improve their title odds enough to part with draft picks.

There are no guarantees that Indiana would even do this deal — league insiders have pointed out that the price for Turner has never been fewer than multiple first-round picks.

The team and general manager Rob Pelinka have been uncharacteristically conservative with future first-round draft picks this summer, a sign that they’re either looking to the future or unwilling to negotiate against themselves in these talks.

As we’ve reported, the Lakers would need to feel their title odds would improve significantly in any deal costing them two firsts because of the problems that could cause in the short and long terms.

NBA insiders observing this process have said the Lakers might be on an easier path by keeping Westbrook and seeing whether new coach Darvin Ham can unlock a complementary version of him than the team is by pushing all-in with a trade and a roster that, if we’re being honest, still has some concerns.

A more prudent path could be simply waiting and gathering more information about the things the team actually needs to improve. Then the Lakers could decide whether the team they built is good enough to put the picks it can trade into any plans for improvement.


Remember, any deal that happens now involving those two first-round picks would make the Lakers less equipped to be active during the trade season when injuries and roster flaws could present a new slate of needs. And with Westbrook’s $47-million contract prorating throughout the year, his actual price tag would dip to an opposing owner the later the Lakers wait.

There’s also the very real possibility that Westbrook will be better next year in his second season in Los Angeles.

All of this is to say that there’s still no easy, clear option for the team with difficult decisions here now for them and more undoubtedly waiting down the road.

Like so many packages with Utah, maybe a Pacers trade would make the Lakers better. But would it make them good enough to contend for a title?

It’s the question the Lakers have to keep asking even if there’s no way to know that answer right now.

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Pat Bev calls me out

Speaking of improvement, the Lakers roster did get stronger with the deal to land point guard Patrick Beverley. With so many high-paid players on the roster, finding guys comfortable in more limited, albeit clearly defined, roles is a must.

During his introductory media scrum, I asked Beverley how he’s feeling physically after injuries have limited him the last three seasons.

“Amazing. Like I’m 19,” he said. “What about you?”

And after spending all of the previous morning at Disneyland during a heatwave with a toddler and an infant, I fired right back.

“Like I’m 60.”

Scary thing … pretty sure I looked worse than I felt.

Song of the week

“Circles” by Soul Coughing

I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend any of the money I earned in my summer job at the local par-three golf course on this Soul Coughing record, so I did what any good older brother would do. I convinced my younger sister she needed to have it.

Sometimes this summer, it feels like I’m caught in some unescapable circle when considering the possible options for the Lakers and Westbrook. And as I wrote about the Pacers, this tune popped right into my head.


In case you missed it

Lakers commit to making Russell Westbrook-Patrick Beverley combo work

Hernandez: To make it work with Lakers, Russell Westbrook can’t be the Russell Westbrook of old

Commentary: Can the Donovan Mitchell trade help solve the Lakers’ Russell Westbrook problem? Maybe

Until next time...

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