While the Los Angeles Lakers were celebrating their first victory of the season and the start of the Russell Westbrook campaign for "Sixth Man of the Year," one of their potential trade targets sounded off on the possibility of a deal to L.A.
Indiana Pacers center/forward Myles Turner joined Adrian Wojnarowski on The Woj Pod this past Sunday, and when the NBA insider asked if the Lakers should trade their picks for him, Turner did not hold back.
"We all know picks are so valuable in this league," Turner said. "And someone like myself, I'm heading into the last year of my deal, and you wanna make sure you're getting a return for your assets."
"If I'm the Lakers, I take a very hard look at this with the position that you're in. I know what I can provide for a team. My leadership, my shot blocking, my three-point ability and my ability to make plays out there on the floor. I'd take a very long look at it."
Well said by Turner. The NBA may give him a small fine for talking about a trade to another team, but Turner's comments were well articulated.
He correctly identifies what is essential for both franchises. The Pacers need to get value in return for him as an asset unless he and the team intend to extend the relationship beyond 2022-23.
The Lakers also need to be careful in using their draft assets in a trade. With prior obligations to the New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles can only outright trade their 2027 and 2029 firsts and, in doing so, will tie up its first-round picks through 2031 because of the Stepien Rule.
So, what specifically is new since the start of October when the Lakers and Pacers locked into a staring contest expected to last at least 20 games?
For one, the Lakers lost their first five games. The team's three-point shooting improved to a league-worst 26.6 percent after finally getting a win on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.
The Pacers were undoubtedly watching from afar, feeling pretty good about their hopes of the Lakers caving on both picks with Turner, Buddy Hield and possibly Daniel Theis going to L.A. for Westbrook.
"The Lakers are an awful shooting team," one executive said about the conundrum. "They aren't doing anything without some shooters who can really move the needle. Can the Pacers offer that? It's certainly better what [the Lakers] have now."
For the Pacers, the team got past a minor setback in which Turner sprained his ankle stepping on a ball boy during warmups on opening night.
But once he was on the court, Turner exploded for 27 points (hitting three of four from three-point range), 10 rebounds and five blocks against the Washington Wizards in his debut last Friday.
Meanwhile, Hield has been rock solid to start the season, averaging 17.1 points while shooting 44.6 percent from deep. The Pacers must feel good about their leverage in a potential deal with Los Angeles.
The Lakers have also made a change, with head coach Darvin Ham relegating Westbrook to the bench. So far, the results seem positive, but the team has a long way to go to prove it's a contender in the West.
"I think the Lakers bought themselves a little time with Westbrook off the bench. They can't shoot, but their defense has been decent, and they've been competitive in losses," the executive said. "They may wait to see if what they've got is for real before doing anything drastic."
From the Lakers' point of view, the team needs to win around 35 games to make the play-in. There's plenty of time to make an intelligent decision that doesn't necessarily hamper the team's future. Don't mistake that the picks are off-limits. L.A. will sacrifice the draft capital if it can make a deal that catapults the franchise into contention.
That's a bigger question, not necessarily based on what the Lakers might get to round out the roster with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but on Davis' health throughout the year.
"I don't like what I've seen from A.D.," the executive said. "That back doesn't look healthy."
Davis is playing through clear discomfort, but if he can't give the Lakers a strong season, is there any path to playoff success? If not, why give up any first-round picks? That has to be part of the team's calculation.
Several executives and agents around the league believe the Lakers will eventually cave, probably for the Pacers deal.
However, new trade partners could surface as other teams plummet throughout the year (either through injury or commitment to the Victor Wembanyama lottery). Other candidates could include the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz or Charlotte Hornets. That list could grow into December and January as recently signed free agents become trade eligible.
Help for A.D.
Beyond Hield's shooting, Turner offers something unique to the Lakers.
"I like the idea of [the Lakers] having someone else to deal with the bigger players in the league, let A.D. play forward. [L.A. doesn't] have enough talent right now to do that currently," a different executive said. "Though A.D. is great against guys like [Nikola] Jokić and [Rudy] Gobert, it's the lesser-known bruiser types he has to face day-to-day that he shouldn't [have to fight against]."
That's where a larger body like Turner—who can take those physical assignments, block shots and, as a bonus, shoot the ball—would help the Lakers.
The other side of that coin is Turner has his durability issues. What will happen if Davis and Turner are hurt and the Lakers are down two future firsts? What did the franchise achieve?
"They created their own issues with the decisions [they've made] over the last few years," the first executive said. "They have to find their way out of it."
Are the Pacers the solution? Not until the Lakers make sure they're not consistently better with Westbrook off the bench. Not until they have a sense of how well Davis can play through back issues. The panic level seemed to rise with the 0-5 start, but the temperature may have cooled for a minute after the win over the Nuggets.
In his conversation with Wojnarowski, Turner certainly sounded like he wanted to be a Laker. It all but sounded like a job interview for the team. But even Turner left it open to uncertainty.
"As far as pulling the trigger, I get paid to shoot, not to make these calls," Turner said. "I couldn't answer that."
As the Pacers get closer to the trade deadline, their risk grows: They could lose Turner without compensation as a free agent next July.
The Lakers may perform well enough to try and sweat out Indiana, but if the team continues to lose at a similar pace, the Pacers may be playing L.A. perfectly.