Russell Westbrook Trade Rumors: Pacers Are a 'Potential Suitor' for Lakers Star

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVApril 11, 2022

Los Angeles Lakers guards Russell Westbrook, front, and Malik Monk look on from the bench in the first half of an basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Sunday, April 10, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Indiana Pacers are reportedly a potential suitor for a Russell Westbrook trade this offseason.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the Pacers could target Westbrook if they want to shed long-term salary from their roster, specifically the contracts of guards Buddy Hield and Malcolm Brogdon.

Trading Hield and Brogdon for Westbrook straight up would work under the salary cap and allow the Pacers to get out from under the final three years of Brogdon's contract and the final two of Hield's. Indiana is in the early stages of a rebuild, and both Brogdon and Hield will be in their 30s by the time the franchise can reasonably expect to be a contender.

Adding Westbrook's expiring $47.1 million contract, which is technically a player option but a no-brainer given what he'd get on the open market, allows the Pacers to shed long-term salary and almost certainly add at least one future first-round draft pick. The earliest pick the Lakers can trade is 2027, so its value is limited, but the Pacers are one of the few natural fits for Westbrook from a salary perspective.

It's likely Indiana would reach a buyout agreement with Westbrook if a trade goes down. The Pacers have a young, rising point guard in Tyrese Haliburton, and taking him off the ball for an aging Westbrook would be poor long-term planning.

What's abundantly clear is the Lakers need to explore every avenue to trade Westbrook and find better basketball fits next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Westbrook experiment was a disaster as the 2017 NBA MVP failed to mesh with the two Lakers stars on the floor and became a focus of criticism from fans.

Hield and Brogdon are both excellent fits as potential role players—capable shooters who can spread the floor and don't need the ball in their hands to be effective. Brogdon is a near-perfect James point guard as a solid shooter and defender who can function offensively as a secondary ball-handler.