Westbrook, Hield, Turner – Five questions to answer before the proposed Lakers-Pacers trade

After the Indiana Pacers play the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena Monday and continue en route to Sacramento, center Myles Turner may have mixed feelings about boarding the team’s plane rather than staying in LA

Last month, after trade talks between the Pacers and Lakers fizzled just before training camp, Turner resorted to the rare tactic of publicly lobbying the teams to reconsider the deal.

“If I’m the Lakers, I’ll look very closely at that with the position you’re in,” Turner said, responding to a question about the potential trade as a guest on ESPN’s “The Woj Pod” with Adrian Wojnarowski. “I know what I can offer a team – my lead, my shot blocking, my 3-point ability and just my ability to make plays on the ground.”

The proposed trade, which saw Turner and shooting guard Buddy Hield go to the Lakers and LA in exchange for sending point guard Russell Westbrook and Draft Capital, fell apart when the Lakers pulled out, multiple sources told ESPN.

The Lakers decided that giving up their first-round picks for 2027 and 2029 — the only future first-round assets they have in their draft chest — was too high a price to pay for a move that would not undeniably propel them to contender status, said sources.

Also, the Lakers argued, sources said, that the same deal would still stand with the Pacers down the line should they re-engage.

With the Lakers (7-11) and Pacers (11-8) scheduled to meet on Monday (10:30 p.m. ET), here are five questions to answer as LA ponders whether or not to act.

When could this trade happen?

As the Lakers started the season 0-5, Wojnarowski reported that LA would wait until around Thanksgiving before attempting to improve the team. The thinking behind that timing, team sources said, was threefold. Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka wanted to see how the group put together during the offseason, which consisted of six players from last season’s team, fitted together; he wanted to give freshman head coach Darvin Ham the chance to bring his vision of reviving Westbrook to life; and he didn’t want to seem so desperate with trade talks early in the season, knowing other teams would take advantage of potential negotiations.

Where things stand now is an adjusted schedule for LA. The Lakers expect more teams will be willing to include them in trade talks after Dec. 15, when deals signed over the summer can be postponed, sources said. But even with more opportunities opening up, league business slows down around the holidays, so chances of action before mid-January are slim.

As the season gets deeper and the Pacers still look like an Eastern Conference playoff suspension, Indiana’s attitude towards offloading current talent for future flexibility could change. The Pacers’ owner, real estate mogul Herb Simon, is 88 years old. While most league governors prioritize championship hunting and rebuilds over mediocrity, the Lakers are unconvinced that Simon would dissect a winning team to tank in Victor Wembanyama for the #1 draft prospect, said sources, preferring to enjoy a competitive group in his fall years.

What would Turner and Hield bring to the table?

The Lakers rank 28th in the league on 3-point percentage (31.9), driven by a league-worst wide-open 3-point field goal percentage and a catch-and-shoot-3 Points field goal percentage, which also ranks 28th for second spectrum tracking.

Their 3-point wide open percentage, defined as a shot taken when the closest defender is at least 6 feet away at the time of publication, is historically poor — if their 31.9% mark is stuck on wide-open 3s , it would be the worst rate for any team in any season since player tracking began in 2013–14.

Adding Hield could go a long way towards fixing this problem. He is sixth in the league with 3 points per game (3.8). He is also second in 3s catches and shoots per game, behind only Klay Thompson, and is in the top 5 for accuracy on wide open 3s.

Hield could allow the Lakers to get more out of LeBron James, who has assisted on most 3s in NBA history. His Lakers teammates are shooting 22.9% wide open 3s from his passes this season, which is the worst percentage for any passer who created at least 40 wide open 3 opportunities this season, according to Second Spectrum.

And Gymnast, who is in a contract year, is posting career-best numbers in scoring (18.2 points), FG% (55.9), 3FG% (43.1), FT% (82.9) and rebounds (8.1) per game. He has played in 14 of 19 games for the Pacers after suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first week of the season.

The Lakers’ defense has allowed opponents to edge 68% in November, the seventh-worst in the league this month. Turner can help there too. The 26-year-old averages 2.8 blocks per game, a category in which he twice led the league in his eight seasons.

And he would allow Anthony Davis to play further in, where he prefers, with his reach from deep.

Is Westbrook still a problem for LA?

Not necessarily, but his contract is. The Lakers don’t have enough reliable players and converting Westbrook’s $47.1 million contract into two rotation players brings them closer to the depth needed for a postseason run.

Westbrook’s 15.7 points and 8.1 assists per game as a reserve was a rare bright spot in the Lakers’ season. After struggling so much last year, he has found a rhythm as the leader of the second unit.

Some of Westbrook’s decisions were second-guessed — most notably by Davis after a Nov. 11 loss to the Kings that dropped the Lakers to 2-10. “Pair of ‘my bads’ at the end of the first half, and they go on a 14-5 run,” Davis said, referring to a hard stretch from the point guard as LA lost momentum before halftime. “Certain moments where we can’t have ‘my weaknesses’.” Westbrook also shoots a career-worst 39.4% from the field and has the seventh-worst turnover rate in the league while playing the fewest minutes of any at the bottom 10 .

Ham, who adjusted Westbrook’s role from starter to sixth man just five games into the season, has consistently championed the 15-year veteran since the move.

“I love what he’s bringing, coming away with that second unit and giving us a boost when needed,” Ham said when asked if Westbrook would return to the starting lineup after James suffered a groin injury earlier this month. “Just that he’s able to orchestrate and be Russ. Control the ball, control the pace and play freely.”

But if the Lakers intend to add James to the roster this season to give the 20-year veteran his best shot at another championship run, as Pelinka said his goal was over the summer as “steward of LeBron’s legacy,” then it would just have to include Westbrook’s contract.

So what concerns remain?

Let’s start with Turner’s availability. He’s only played 89 of Indiana’s 154 games over the past two seasons because of foot and ankle injuries — hardly reliable insurance should Davis be hit by injuries like he’s done the past two seasons.

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LeBron James gets the loose ball, feeds Russell Westbrook, who returns it to LeBron for the dunk.

There are other issues the Lakers’ front office considered when evaluating trades ahead of training camp, sources holding back LA from going all-in said. Questions like:

In a playoff game, would either Turner or Hield be definite members of LA’s final lineup?

Would Turner be able to stay on the court if the opponent gets small?

Would Hield bring enough defensively, or would Ham trust a wing like Austin Reaves or Troy Brown Jr. at this point?

And given the franchise’s trades for future free agent Dwight Howard in 2012 and Dennis Schroder in 2020, it’s worth risking potentially valuable future draft capital to have Turner in Los Angeles for possibly just a few months acquire if he goes like Howard and Schroder?

Would a trade save the Lakers’ season?

Maybe. According to sources, a belief shared by leaders in the Lakers dressing room is that the team is just a few players away from making this group a legitimate contender. But attracting the right players could take multiple trades.

That’s why it’s such a gut check to put down both 2027 and 2029 draft picks to close a deal with Indiana. Pelinka admitted this on Media Day in September. “You have a chance to make a multi-tip trade,” he said. “So if you make that trade, and I’m not talking about a specific player on our team, but it has to be the right one.”

Otherwise, maybe there’s an option to seek a deal that focuses on Westbrook and one of the two picks, and another that’s something like Patrick Beverley’s salary ($13 million) and Kendrick Nunn’s (5 $.3 million) used – the only other contracts for the Lakers. Books strong enough to combine in a salary match for a proven player – plus the other pick to add another key player.

But the clock is ticking. Even with an improved game of late, LA is still three games away from last play-in spot in the Western Conference at 7-11.

And the timeline is unforgiving through mid-January, when LA reckons deals could materialize. Including Monday’s game against the Pacers, 15 of the Lakers’ next 23 games are underway through Jan. 9. If at this point, almost 40 games into the season, the Lakers are still under .500 — a reasonable concern considering LA is 2-6 on the way so far — it would be worth using the future to to flock to this group?

Or should the Lakers play with the roster they are currently building this season, use the salary cap space to sign free agents in the summer, and explore post-draft night trades with picks if they have the player their picks are for have selected the first round 2023 available?

Far more questions than answers remain in Lakerland right now.

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/35127414/westbrook-hield-turner-five-questions-answer-proposed-lakers-pacers-trade Westbrook, Hield, Turner – Five questions to answer before the proposed Lakers-Pacers trade

Emma Bowman

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