Westbrook is untradeable
Russell Westbrook has been regarded as one of the most untradeable contracts in the NBA for the past 3 years, yet each year he finds himself on a new team. The combination of his ball dominant style of play and his massive $47,000,000 salary is a tough pitch to any team in the league right now. Can the Lakers find a way to move on from this failed experiment? Here is one realistic Lakers Westbrook trade idea that could work.
The Lakers lean into their identity
The Los Angeles Lakers won a championship in 2019-20 with stout defense and an offense built around LeBron James led pick and rolls. Swapping out Russell Westbrook for Myles Turner would allow the Lakers to lean into their defensive identity while also providing LeBron with an alternative roll man (to Anthony Davis) and floor spacer. Turner is currently averaging 36.8% from three (4.6 attempts) and is leading the league in block shots at 2.9 bpg. Last year Turner was top five in opponent shooting percentage at the rim (even better than Rudy Gobert).
Trading for Turner would allow the Lakers to move Anthony Davis to his preferred position of PF. I believe having Turner as the main rim protector would take a lot of the defensive burden off of Davis shoulders. AD could play more as a weak side help defender similar to Ben Wallace‘s roll on the 2005 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons. When Davis is out of the lineup (which is often) the Lakers can maintain the same offense by using Turner as a roll man and still have a top ten defense.
Overall this trade would significantly reduce how often the Lakers rely on Anthony Davis. It would be beneficial both long and short term for AD’s health. With Westbrook gone Rondo can resume his roll as secondary ball handler and Jeremy Lamb can provide some playmaking as well. All of this is needed to keep the Lakers superstars healthy for a playoff run.
The Pacers get a loyal superstar
The Indiana Pacers two best players Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis have both expressed interest in playing else where. For small market teams like Indiana it can be hard to hold on to their stars. That’s why trading for one of the NBA’s most loyal players in Russell Westbrook could make sense. Russell has always been deeply invested in every team and community he has played on. Indiana can get a star that will stay around and raise the level of the franchise. The team is currently in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. Westbrook has only missed the playoffs once since 2010 (due to major team injuries). He would elevate the team at least to a play-in position. Westbrook may be enough to keep Sabonis happy if the team is winning.
The Pacers would also receive Anfernee Simons and Robert Covington. Covington would provide Indiana with the stretch big that Coach Rick Carilisle covets. Anfernee Simons is an up and coming player with a lot of potential. He is posting career highs in points (12.1 ppg), assists (2.1 apg) and rebounds (2.5 rpg). Simons is strong shooter that is flirting with 40/50/90 splits (37.9% 3FG, 48.6% 2FG and 93.8% FT).
If the Pacers decide that Westbrook isn’t a fit after this year, they can move on from him next season as he will be on an expiring contract. They could trade him for picks (and a few smaller contracts) to a team looking for cap space in the 2023 offseason. This trade allows the Pacers to keep one foot in “Win Now” mode and one foot towards a rebuild.
Blazers get bigger on the wing
The Portland Trailblazers have always been one of the best offensive teams in the league, but they have lacked even an average defense for years. One of their biggest problems is size from the guard position. Portlands top four guards Damien Lilliard, Cj Mccollum, Norman Powell and Anfernee Simons are all 6’3″ or smaller. Defensively they struggle to guard big wings like Paul George. Caris LeVert would provide more size at 6’6″ and scoring punch than Simons currently gives Portland. If LeVert can stay healthy he is a 20 ppg, 6 apg and 5 rpg type of player. This may be enough to help improve the team and keep Lilliard around for the long hall.
Portland is comfortable giving up Covington because he has been made redundant by Larry Nance Jr. Nance is putting up similar numbers to Covington at the PF position, but providing them more efficiently. They traded for Nance in the offseason, so moving on from Covington was inevitable.
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