Despite a flurry of early signings and winning a stiff competition against a longtime NBA rival for center Thomas Bryant, the Lakers enter the dog days of the offseason with some holes to fill. Ultimately, they could wind up with point guard Kyrie Irving on their side, but not everyone within the organization feels that’s the best plan. Some would like to see the Lakers pull off a bigger deal to bring in a pair of pieces that will fill the need for a starting center and for more shooting.
Rather than going all-in for Irving, a move supported by star forward LeBron James, some within the organization want to make a wider deal that would send out Russell Westbrook, draft picks and perhaps guard Talen Horton-Tucker for the veteran Indiana duo of shooter Buddy Hield and center Myles Turner.
As Jovan Buha of The Athletic said on The NBA Show, “The Nets don’t want to take back Russell Westbrook, and they want at least one pick back. The Lakers have been hesitant to give up that draft capital … I know that they’ve looked around at Indiana. ‘Can we get a Myles Turner and a Buddy Hield?’”
Lakers Have Long Sought Hield, Turner
The Lakers’ interest in Hield goes back to last summer, when the team nearly traded for him with Kyle Kuzma going to Sacramento, before Hield was shipped to Indiana in the massive Tyrese Halliburton-Domantas Sabonis trade. The Lakers pulled out of that deal in order to pursue Westbrook, and even at that time, some in the organization thought sticking with the Hield plan was better for the team.
Turner, for his part, has been open to a trade out of Indiana going back two years, and he was expecting to be dealt at last season’s deadline instead of Sabonis. A source with knowledge of the situation told Heavy.com, “Of course he would be open to a trade to the Lakers.”
The Lakers have long held an interest in Turner, but have lacked the assets to acquire him. With Indiana seeking to retool the roster and send away veterans for draft picks, though, L.A. is in much better position to get both him and Hield. Turner is in the final year of his contract at $17.5 million, and Hield has two years remaining, at $20.5 million this year and $18.5 million next year.
Can Kyrie Be Reliable?
The source of dissension over Irving stems from his unreliability as a player, because he has missed 123 games over the past three seasons because of injury, mental health breaks and his refusal to comply with a New York City mandate on the COVID-19 vaccine. Irving thrived when he was a teammate of James’ in Cleveland, and James feels he can get the most of Irving if they reunite.
But James also felt he could get the most out of Westbrook, an experiment that failed miserably.
If the Lakers were able to cobble together a deal that send away Westbrook and THT for Hield, Turner, and a future first-rounder, many in the organization feel that the team can successfully erase the Westbrook mistake and replace him with two competent role players around James and big man Anthony Davis.
Irving, the fear is, will invite the same level of drama and unpredictability that Westbrook did. James disagrees. But is it still his call?