Power ranking likely Lakers targets in a Russell Westbrook trade

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – FEBRUARY 11: Buddy Hield #24 of the Indiana Pacers dribbles the ball in the second quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on February 11, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Lakers may soon be trading for him. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

After the Los Angeles Lakers made their free agency signings, the rumor was that the team was not done creating its roster and that further changes would be made. We’ve already seen one major change happen in the form of Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson being traded to the Utah Jazz for Patrick Beverley.

THT getting moved now leaves only Russell Westbrook (and I guess Kendrick Nunn’s $5.2 million contract) as the only asset on the roster that could be traded for something worthwhile. And as The Athletic’s Jovan Buha reported recently, the acquisition of Westbrook’s long-time enemy in Beverley only makes it “more likely” that Russ will be off the team by the time training camp comes around. However, Buha does leave the door open for the Lakers sending Westbrook home for the season as the Rockets did with John Wall last year.

But we’re not going to entertain the idea of the Lakers letting $47 million of their salary cap just sit at home. Instead, we are going to talk about the probable options the Lakers have in terms of trading Westbrook. These options, as reported by the L.A. Times Dan Woike recently, “have always extended beyond” the trade for Kyrie Irving which is now dead in the water after Kevin Durant took back his trade demand.

There are two different options that have been reported for the Lakers. One involves the Pacers while the other involves the Jazz and Knicks. Instead of comparing those two trade scenarios, I figured it’d be more interesting to rank each player that could come to the Lakers in these two deals.

These rankings are not solely made by how good or bad each player is, but also how positive of an impact they could make to a Lakers team alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the new roster that has been formed.

5. Cam Reddish

I’m sort of throwing Cam Reddish’s name here without any reporting connecting him to a possible trade involving the Lakers this summer. However, he was reportedly being targeted by the Lakers right before the 2022 trade deadline.

Any Knicks or Jazz players coming the Lakers’ way would come from three-team deal between the two sides that would center around Donovan Mitchell going to New York. The Lakers could hop in to relieve the Knicks of some long-term contracts (Evan Fournier), relieve the Jazz of talent while they try and tank (Bojan Bogdanovic), while also providing some additional draft compensation to the Jazz to help sweeten the deal on their end. Here’s how the deal could look to me.

Theorized trade between the Lakers, Knicks, and Jazz (image courtesy of http://www.fanspo.com)

Would one single Lakers first-rounder be enough here to get it done? To be honest, I really don’t think the Lakers should give up both of their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks for the trio above. But that second first-rounder may be even more important now given the fact that R.J. Barrett has just signed a four-year, $120 million extension with the Knicks including a “poison pill” within said contract (read here to learn more about that). ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the deal, and he explains the situation more in his report but the “long story made short” of it all is that Barrett — likely the most attractive trade piece to the Jazz — is basically off the table.

Either way, in terms of ranking players that could soon be joining the Lakers, I think Reddish is far and away the worst even though I’m sure the Lakers wouldn’t mind him. He’d be a bit of a “youth retribution” project, very similar to what they did with Malik Monk last season and what they’ll be doing with the likes of Thomas Bryant and Lonnie Walker IV this season. He’s also a part of Klutch Sports Group, so… yeah.

This would be the third team in one calendar year for Reddish and when a team passes a super young player around like that, it should tell you something. His 3-point shooting (32.5% on his career) and defense (2nd percentile in terms of D-LEBRON, B-Ball Index’s advanced defensive metric) as a 6’8” player with length could improve with much better pieces around him in L.A., but I’m not willing to bet on it at this point. Especially with a player in Lonnie Walker already on the roster showing much of the same attributes.

4. Evan Fournier

Evan Fournier is included in the deal above, and was theorized as a piece coming back to the Lakers in the three-team trade by NBA insider and writer Marc Stein when he stated in his newsletter that there is a “decent chance” that the Lakers get involved in a deal that would see Mitchell go to New York.

I was pretty surprised to see some of the offensive metrics from Fournier’s game (column 4) when researching for this article. Below you’ll see some of them compared to players like himself around the league with Bojan Bogdanovic (column 1), Buddy Hield (column 2), and Cam Reddish (column 3) in the other columns (you’ll continue to see why I have Reddish last).

With better quality looks from the perimeter surrounding LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Fournier could actually be one of the best 3-point shooters the Lakers have ever surrounded those two superstars with. However, his defense isn’t much (but it is better than every other forward/guard on this list) and he still has around $18 million per year on his contract with the Lakers not being able to get off his deal until the 2025 option when they would have a team option for the next season.

That’s a lot of eliminated flexibility in the future when compared to the rest of the players on this list. It’s the main reason that he was automatically behind everyone else on this list, although he may have ended there anyways with the contract aside.

3. Myles Turner

I struggled to decide on the order of Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic. It’s especially hard since they’re completely different players and would be bringing much different things to the team.

If Anthony Davis’s shooting woes continue, the spacing of lineups he’s in could be improved with Myles Turner right next to him. Below you’ll see comparisons between Turner, Damian Jones, and Thomas Bryant. Turner essentially provides the impact that those two would combine to provide, immediately turning into arguably the third most talented player the Lakers have had in the LeBron and AD era.

The shooting would be nice, but the defense would be much more welcomed by the Lakers. They improved in that area by acquiring Beverley, but what allows Beverley and the other Lakers defenders to be even more aggressive on the perimeter? Knowing that they have not just one, but two all-world rim defenders behind them to clean up the mistakes that come from their aggression. This could work with both of those two big men on the court as they both can prove serviceable when guarding wings or guards on switches, but it could work even better with them staggered throughout the game, allowing the Lakers to always have a presence at the rim.

I ended up having him at third on the list given the fact that Jones and Bryant already exist and how I do think the Lakers need some wing depth much more than a big man at this current juncture. But given how high he and Hield are on this list, you don’t really have to ask me which trade option I prefer… even if it costs two first round picks.

2. Bojan Bogdanovic

Bogdanovic comes in at number two for me.

He was mentioned in the same hypothetical that Stein laid out involving Fournier, and was reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania to be someone to keep an eye on in terms of targets the Lakers may have. This was before it was reported the Lakers would be acquiring Beverley.

Over nine NBA seasons, Bogdanovic is a career 39.2% 3-point shooter on 5.2 attempts per game. Most recently for the Jazz, he made 38.7% of 6.8 attempts per game. On top of that, he can create for himself while getting to and finishing at the rim. He’s getting up there in age (32 years old) but he has shown an ability of being able to stay on the floor playing in 69, 72, 63, 81, and 80 games over the past five seasons.

But when looking at the graph above comparing the forwards and guards in this list, his defense (in addition to the next guy here) leaves a lot to be desired. Patrick Beverley and, well… I don’t know who else… are really going to have to clean up things on the perimeter that Bogdanovic or Hield are screwing up.

Either way, Bogdanovic would be a more than suitable offensive weapon for the Lakers to acquire, much like Beverley was a great defensive weapon.

1. Buddy Hield

Number one on my list should have already been a Laker, but I digress. It’s Buddy Hield. It was always Buddy Hield.

Although Hield and Bogdanovic provide many of the same things — blistering 3-point shooting, decent overall offensive creation, and terrible defense — the 3-point shooting metrics intrigue me upon further evaluation. You’ll see that Bogdanovic had much higher quality looks from deep when compared to Hield.

Hield was one of the lone offensive options on the horrid Pacers this past season, leading to his 3-point attempts being highly contested. That quality would certainly improve on the Lakers, with it turning Hield into a flame-throwing movement shooter who could run all over the court with LeBron providing pinpoint passes all over the court to really raise the Lakers offense’s floor AND ceiling.

Bogdanovic would be a free agent next summer while Hield wouldn’t be until 2024 which means Hield’s $18.5 million owed in the 2023-24 season would effectively take the Lakers out of the free agent race, but he is three years younger than Bogdanovic with the Lakers having bird rights on him and Turner (Lakers would also have bird rights with Bogdanovic).

The Lakers could sign Turner and Hield to new contracts without worrying about the cap implications because of this. If they stay healthy and deliver the things they’ve delivered all their careers, I think both would be great players to continue having around LeBron and AD.

As I said previously, it’s obvious which trade I prefer. Give me Hield and Turner for Westbrook and two first rounders (I’ll do only one but I think it’s definitely worth two). I believe it would put the Lakers in the mix of playoff teams in the Western Conference at the very least with great potential that it makes them a top four team if LeBron and AD stay healthy.

Leave a Reply