It’s been a possibility floating about as the Lakers, and the rest of the NBA, try to figure out just how to reconfigure the last—and in some cases, most stubborn—pieces of their rosters. No piece has been more stubborn, of course, than Russell Westbrook, and the Lakers are torn between bringing Westbrook back for another shot and finding some sort of deal for the final year of Westbrook’s contract.
Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein this week brought up the possibility of Westbrook being shipped to New York for the Knicks’ most stubborn piece, that of Julius Randle, who signed a four-year, $117 million contract extension with the team last summer, which includes $106 million in guaranteed money.
But a straight swap between the two teams is a longshot, because the Knicks already added a point guard, Jalen Brunson, and are hoping to bring in another major piece, Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz. One Eastern Conference exec speculated that to make a Randle-Westbrook trade work, the Lakers might have to engage with the Pacers, who have been in frequent contact with L.A. for veterans Buddy Hield and Myles Turner.
“You’re gonna need the Pacers to get something done there,” the exec said. “It’s everyone swapping their junk, it would be a trash blockbuster. But you could probably satisfy everyone.”
Basics of a Pacers-Knicks-Lakers Trade
The basics of a trade among the three teams would be this:
Lakers get Myles Turner, Julius Randle.
Knicks get Buddy Hield, Kendrick Nunn.
Pacers get Russell Westbrook, Quentin Grimes, future first-rounder from Knicks, future first-rounder from Lakers.
The Lakers would achieve their objective of being done with Westbrook and only using up one first-round pick to do so. They’d add a shot-blocking center in Turner, but would have an issue that needed working out: What to do with Randle, who has been a starter for 438 of the 518 games he has played in the NBA?
Randle could make an ideal sixth man behind Anthony Davis and Turner, and with the injury history of those two (Turner missed 65 games in the last two years, and Davis missed 88), he would surely get plenty of starting jobs. But he was an All-Star two seasons ago, and might not take well to being sent to a reserve role.
“Just making the contracts work, if the Lakers want to take back Randle, they can do it and they can avoid giving up another pick in that scenario because they are taking the sacrifice with Randle’s contract, long-term,” the executive said. “They only have two picks they can trade away (in 2027 and 2029) and they’re determined not to have to give up both, for now at least.”
The Lakers and Pacers, according to a report out of Indianapolis, had talks about Hield and Turner, but the Lakers were unwilling to give up both of their available picks in the deal.
Maybe Westbrook Just Stays in L.A.
Of course, there is still some sentiment in the organization for holding onto Westbrook and seeing whether new coach Darvin Ham can utilize him in a better way than former coach Frank Vogel did. Rather than giving up picks and taking bad contracts just to be rid of Westbrook, why not give the Westbrook experiment another go?
The Lakers could be forced to do just that.
“Necessity is the mother of staying together in this case,” Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett said in a video interview. “There is some of that. I think there are also, from what I’ve heard, elements within the Lakers that really want to give Darvin Ham a shot at this. … He’s a different kind of dude. He is not going to put up with the weirdness we have seen in L.A., with that organization. He is the kind of guy who will get through to players.”