Lakers' Top Trade Targets in 2022 Offseason

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 5, 2022

Lakers' Top Trade Targets in 2022 Offseason

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to make another NBA championship run with LeBron James, it's now or never.

    Well, next season or never.

    L.A. flopped hard during the 2021-22 campaign, opening with the Western Conference's highest projected win total and finishing with its fifth-worst record (33-49). The disappointment cost Frank Vogel his head-coaching job, and trading Russell Westbrook arguably belongs next on the offseason to-do list.

    While the Lakers can't expect to get much for the falling star, let's round up the top three names who should be on the radar.

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    If the Lakers trade Westbrook this summer, they will need to send some type of assets to whichever team takes him off of their hands. In order for L.A. to add actual contributors in the exchange, though, it might have to send out essentially everything it has.

    Perhaps that possibility is why the Indiana Pacers have emerged as a potential Westbrook suitor, per Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. The Pacers have a few high-dollar deals they might want to shed, plus they could be interested in a young player like Talen Horton-Tucker (not to mention two future first-round picks).

    If the Lakers put everything on the table—or at least Westbrook, Horton-Tucker and one of those firsts—that might be enough for the Pacers to part with both Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield. Basketball-wise, this is probably as good as a Westbrook blockbuster can get for the Purple and Gold.

    Brogdon fits the preferred play style of a point guard who shares the floor with James since he can initiate offense but offers just as much value as an off-ball shooter. Plus, Brogdon holds his own defensively against either guard spot. Hield is more or less a shooting specialist, but he is elite in that role, and L.A. needs more spacers.

Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    There aren't any realistic trade partners for a Westbrook swap, but the Houston Rockets make the shortlist.

    John Wall's contract is almost a perfect match, and much like Westbrook, he is a brutal fit in his current spot. He might not fare much better in L.A., but at least he could offer something different. These teams discussed a Wall-for-Westbrook swap at the deadline, but the Lakers declined because they didn't want to give up a first-round pick, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.

    L.A. probably still needs more than Wall to justify losing a draft pick. Enter Eric Gordon, whom L.A. could poach in the deal by tacking on Horton-Tucker.

    While Gordon turned 33 on Christmas, he also just played one of his most efficient seasons to date. His 47.5 field-goal percentage marked a new career-high, while his 41.2 three-point percentage was the second-best he has ever posted. He offers a pinch of off-the-bounce creativity, keeps the ball moving on offense and holds his own in most defensive matchups. The Lakers could get decent mileage out of him at a relatively reasonable cost.

Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    The Charlotte Hornets are another team Woike linked to the Westbrook sweepstakes. It isn't entirely clear why since they have an ascending star at floor general in LaMelo Ball.

    Then again, maybe the leading voice in the organization wants to see whether Westbrook, a Jordan Brand athlete, has something left in the tank. Perhaps in the right role, Westbrook's hard-charging play style would even fit the Hornets' up-tempo approach. Well, that or the Hornets view Westbrook's expiring deal as their way out of $61.6 million, per Spotrac, still owed to the oft-injured Gordon Hayward.

    Speaking of those injury issues, they worry the Lakers, per NBA insider Marc Stein. Given the problems the Lakers have had keeping Anthony Davis (and, to a lesser extent, James) upright lately, that's understandable.

    Saying that, Hayward is such a snug basketball fit—particularly when juxtaposed against Westbrook, the square peg L.A. tried mashing into a round hole—he might be worth the risk. When healthy, Hayward does everything you would want from a third option: shoot, distribute, create for himself when needed and defend.

    His days of being the best player on a good team are in the rearview, but if his body cooperates, he could be the third-best player on a contender.