After winning a championship three seasons ago and being among preseason title favorites each of the last two seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers won’t be as hyped heading into next season. The trade for Russell Westbrook could’ve set the franchise back years if they don’t operate carefully this offseason. He’s got a massive $47 million player option that he’ll likely pick up this offseason which will hurt the team’s ability to be flexible.
However, there could be one trade out there that would save the Lakers’ status as championship contenders. NBA insider Marc Stein has previously reported that the Indiana Pacers could be a trade suitor for Westbrook. In a perfect world, the Lakers could trade the guard to Indiana for Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield, which has become a popular trade proposal amongst fans. Jovan Buha of The Athletic agrees that a trade with the Pacers could help get the team back on track:
My favorite Westbrook trade package among the rumored options is the Indiana proposal of Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield for Westbrook (and Kendrick Nunn and/or Talen Horton-Tucker).
Brogdon and Hield are both younger and better fits around James and Davis. That trade, coupled with the right head coaching hire, is perhaps the Lakers’ quickest path back to contention.
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There Is a Downside to This Possible Trade
Hield was almost a Laker before the team decided to go after Westbrook. On paper, he’s a much better fit. He’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA with a 39.8% career shooting percentage. Brogdon is also a better shooter and defender than Westbrook. However, the former MVP is on an expiring contract while Brogdon and Hield still have multiple years left. Buha has his concerns about the Lakers taking those deals on.
“The one downside to the trade for the Lakers is that they would be taking on extra years of salary — Brogdon has three more years on his contract and Hield has two more,” Buha wrote. “But neither player’s deal is an albatross. The Lakers should be able to flip one or both relatively easily if needed.”
It’s always a concern taking on multi-year contracts but Hield and Brogdon are on reasonable deals. If this deal is available to them, the Lakers have to make it happen.
Would Pacers Accept the Trade Package?
While the Hield-Brogdon trade package makes a lot of sense for the Lakers, why would the Pacers want to do it? Westbrook is a depreciating asset and isn’t an easy player to plug into any roster. If the Lakers want to make this trade happen, they’ll have to attach a couple of first-round picks. The only ones they can offer this offseason are in 2027 and 2029. Those are valuable as nobody knows how good the Lakers will be that far into the future. If they’re bad, those could be very valuable lottery picks.
Also, Westbrook’s massive contract comes off the books after next season. That would give the Pacers ample salary cap space to rebuild their roster. Indiana is rebuilding and doesn’t have a need for a couple of veterans like Hield and Brogdon. They could probably get better than Westbrook and some draft picks for those two but the Lakers should keep a close eye on the situation in case they can’t.