However, the Pacers reportedly insisted on receiving two unprotected first-round picks in a deal with the Lakers, which is not appealing to them, according to NBA insider Shams Charania.
“I'm told the Lakers and Pacers did engage in some trade conversations this week and the Pacers' demand for two unprotected first-round picks … is just not appealing for the Lakers.”
— The Rally (@TheRally) September 21, 2022
Presumably, a deal with the Pacers would involve Los Angeles moving Russell Westbrook’s contract in exchange for players such as Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. Westbrook is owed north of $47 million after opting into his player option.
Westbrook’s salary creates a problem for the Lakers, as it’s going to be hard for the team to find a franchise that will willingly take him on without getting draft capital in return. If the Lakers also want to get players that can contribute in the 2022-23 season back, they likely will need to give up more draft picks.
The Lakers and Rob Pelinka essentially have to decide whether or not a combination of Turner and Hield is worth sacrificing multiple years without a first-round pick, knowing that those years will not have LeBron James in uniform.
If Los Angeles is unwilling to run that risk, then it makes more sense for the Lakers to just keep Westbrook on the roster and hope he can improve in the 2022-23 season.
Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star, finished the 2021-22 season averaging 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from beyond the arc.
New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham could try to carve out a new role for Westbrook, but the team has added several guards this offseason, including Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV, that could crowd the rotation.
If the Pacers decide to keep Turner and potentially Hield into the regular season, the Lakers could always revisit trade talks ahead of the league’s trade deadline.
However, after missing the playoffs last season, it’s hard for the Lakers to justify trading two first-round picks to get Hield and Turner when there is no guarantee that the deal makes them a championship contender.