Because this organisation is currently a speculation factory first and a basketball team second, trade winds are blowing in Lakers Land once more.
The Los Angeles Lakers are “weighing three distinct paths” to dramatically improve their roster, according to multiple sources, Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported. These are what they are:
Route 1: “Trade Russell Westbrook for a star or multiplayer haul, plus one or two picks.”
Path 2: “Trade some combination of Kendrick Nunn, Patrick Beverley, and selections (one first-round pick and/or multiple second-round picks) for role players who can upgrade the rotation and better address needs.”
The third option involves distinct transactions. “One using a Beverley-Nunn-pick package, another using Westbrook and a first-round pick.”
It goes without saying that we are all morally required to put together hypothetical bargains that fit under each of these headings. They belong to me.
First Route: The Star Route
Oshae Brissett, Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, and Cleveland’s 2023 first-round pick go to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Damian Jones, Russell Westbrook, Chicago’s 2023 second-round pick, the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), and the Lakers’ 2029 first-round pick are given to the Indiana Pacers.
Turner-to-the-Lakers has been addressed in some form roughly 4.9 billion times. There is a purpose behind everything.
Turner is the closest acquisition the Lakers can make to a star without almost certainly losing out to a higher offer. In theory, it seems like a lot to dangle swaps in 2026 and 2028 on top of 2027 and 2029 firsts. It is, too. However, other teams will make a better offer for someone like Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal.
Given that Beal has a no-trade clause, that package might theoretically qualify you for the Beal sweepstakes. But as of now, neither he nor the Washington Wizards have indicated they want to end the union once he becomes transferable on January 15.
For the Lakers, a trade demand for Jimmy Butler may be intriguing. He is 33 years old and has three seasons and an estimated $146.4 million left on his contract (plus a $52.4 million 2025–26 player option). For potential suitors, both are prohibitive figures. The Lakers’ highest offer, however, could yet be surpassed by another team, and for the time being, this goes too far into the Land of Make Believe.
Trading Kyrie Irving is a possibility. But now that the Brooklyn Nets are back above.500, moving Kyrie could alienate Kevin Durant, who is absolutely destroying opposition defences and has already asked for a trade once.
Turner, who is having his own great season, is brought up again.
His scoring has never been more polished. Since he was a rookie in 2015-16 (21.9 percent), post-ups haven’t made up such a large portion of his offensive touches (15.8%), and Brook Lopez and he both have the highest post-up points per possession (1.21 ppp) of any player who matches or exceeds his volume. Turner is also hitting 37.7 percent of his triples while only attempting 4.7 per 36 minutes, and he has even thrown in a few difficult runners.
Turner keeps causing death and destruction in the vicinity of the basket. He has exceeded three blocks per 36 minutes for the third straight season, and while playing fewer minutes than the top 150 players, he is tied for third in the league in total shots contested at the rim.
There have been tiresome back and forths trying to figure out how he gets to Los Angeles. Why would the Lakers trade away their two finest trade assets for a player who plays Anthony Davis’ best, though least preferred position in the free agent market? It’s a reasonable inquiry. But because of Turner’s outside shooting, Davis and Turner ought to complement one another fairly well offensively. In addition, if Westbrook leaves, the Lakers can make room in their offence for more touches for Turner.
Giving up both firsts is still a difficult thing to do. Turner must be paid by the Lakers this summer, assuming he wants to stay. It also makes it more difficult for Los Angeles to function as a significant cap-space team in free agency, despite the fact that Hield’s practical shooting is a breath of fresh air for one of the league’s clumsiest offences thanks to his $19.3 million salary for the upcoming season.
It is pointless to wait for the Pacers to accept one first-round pick. Closer to the trade deadline, they find it easier to accept Westbrook’s expiring salary ($47.1 million), but because it is so high, they are limited to only waiving him or negotiating a buyout. Even though he is only a temporary employee, they should unquestionably impose an opportunity-cost tax.
It seems like a good compromise to extend the agreement to include Brissett and the Cavaliers’ 2023 first-round pick. If it conveys, that Cleveland first will be in the 20s, and Brissett’s playing time has fluctuated throughout the season. The Pacers ought to choose the opportunity to short the Lakers’ long-term prospects over sticking with a player on an expiring contract and a low-end first who doesn’t matter in their own wider vision.
It is true that executing this deal requires a unique vision. The picks that don’t convey for rounds five and seven are rarely the crown jewels. But there aren’t too many extra first-round picks for the Pacers. This is an opportunity to expand their asset pool.Those Lakers first-round picks might be diamonds they select and cultivate or highly sought-after trade assets they divert later, once they’re extremely strong. When Indy holds Boston’s pick (top-12 protection), paying for Cleveland’s first is likewise a minimal add-on. Additionally, paying for Cleveland’s first boosts the value of its own 2023 selection, which is crucial.
The Lakers are still making an all-in bet with this. When an assured All-Star isn’t present in the return, that’s a little unsettling. However, this deal yields another (likely first-round) pick that they can trade down the line, and Brissett has subtly made 41.4 percent of his three-point attempts since mid-November while retaining his defensive positional flexibility.
Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson are received by the Los Angeles Lakers via Path 2: The Beverley, Nunn, and 1 First Route.
Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn, Chicago’s 2023 second-round pick, and the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick go to the San Antonio Spurs (unprotected)
Undoubtedly, some Spurs supporters will argue that Poeltl is more valuable than just one first-round choice. It’s difficult to argue for that. if we’re referring to two first-round picks in the lower half? Perhaps. But a half-decade(ish) out unprotected pick? Not really.
Mind you, Westbrook is not being acquired by San Antonio as part of this deal. That is crucial. For that service, teams are expected to charge. The Spurs are completely avoiding it. Nunn and Beverley may be redirected or, if not right away, may turn into buyout candidates.
The entire value of Poeltl is further muddled by restrictions and free agency. In the context of San Antonio’s roster, he is overextended despite being a deft decision-maker near the elbows, a great screen-setter, and a shrewd rim protector. His free-throw shooting makes him a liability in crunch time, and this summer’s move into free agency makes him a flight risk. Additionally, the current quad injury he has doesn’t help.
Poeltl won’t be valued by the Lakers quite as highly as Turner, and that is fair. He doesn’t have a perfect offensive fit next to AD, and he’s not likely to be in their preferred closing lineups. Nevertheless, what he accomplishes effectively will be beneficial. especially in light of the lacklustre performances of Thomas Bryant and Damian Jones.
Richardson, on the other hand, is a crucial wing depth. He can defend against everyone from guards to power wings, and he relies heavily on catch-and-fire threes, which he is making at a 40% clip, to get by on the other end.
Overall, the Lakers feel like they are pursuing a half-baked strategy. In principle, it enables them to walk a fine line, but in practise, it is a vote of partial confidence. So be it if that’s what they want. This trade improves them, keeps their first-round pick stores from going bankrupt, and maintains their ability to find $30 million or more in cap space over the summer.
Route 3: The Multiple-Deal Method
Lakers of Los Angeles Receive: Alec Burks, Malik Beasley, Mike Conley, and Kelly Olynyk
Patrick Beverley, Rudy Gay, and an unprotected 2029 first-round selection are given to the Detroit Pistons (through the Lakers).
Damian Jones, Kendrick Nunn, Russell Westbrook, a 2023 second-round pick (from Chicago), a 2026 first-round swap (from the Lakers), and an unprotected 2027 first-round pick are acquired by the Utah Jazz.
I consequently squeezed this route into a single three-team megatrade. Sue me. The essence of Path 3 is still present.
The Lakers benefit greatly from this return in almost every way. Bojan Bogdanovi and Kelly Olynyk increase the size of their front lines and spread the field. When Davis sits, Olynyk can play at the five or next to him. Bogdanovi’s three-ball percentage has fallen below 30 percent since the beginning of November, which largely corresponds with Cade Cunningham’s absence (shin injury). Fortunately, LeBron James of the Lakers will set him up. Bogdanovi also provides Los Angeles with a different situational one-on-one option who is not a small guard.
The Lakers are given the much-needed volume and accuracy of three-point shooting by Malik Beasley. On eight attempts per game, he’s hitting over 39 percent of his three-point attempts.He is most effective as a pure 2, but he can also work at the 3. His price is increased by the luxury of his $16.5 million team option for the upcoming season.
In this situation, Mike Conley is useful. When he recovers from his knee injury, he transforms into an instant fixer—someone who can direct and start the half-court offence but has no trouble playing without the ball. He is 35 years old and has a $14.3 million guarantee for his age-36 season. It’s not bad money, but his full salary of $24.4 million is not a valuable asset.
Utah’s perspective on the trade is based on how it feels about Beasley and having to pay Westbrook’s salary. Both firsts will be pursued by CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik. The Jazz aren’t giving up enough, in my opinion, to have that leverage. Before the team’s recent return to stable ground, it made more sense to move them for anything than both firsts. Olynyk and Conley, however, are neither in the future nor capable of snagging a first on their own. And unless Utah soaks up bad long-term money, I seriously doubt even combining them in a separate deal gets one.
This is not where the Jazz must perform that. Gaining freedom from Gay’s 2023–24 player option in addition to Conley’s massive (but partial) guarantee is a success.That, along with returning only unused funds and exchanging picks in 2026, ought to be sufficient to make up for them not getting the second outright first-round pick.
If Utah wants the 2029 Lakers first, this package can be changed. Detroit can happily accept either choice. Although they recently extended Bogdanovi’s contract, the Pistons don’t have a lot of extra firsts of their own, and he is more of a stopgap convenience than a necessity. If it is anticipated that Cunningham will miss a significant portion of the season, moving him becomes obvious. Even though Detroit might be able to steal a first from another team, it is unlikely to do so this far out.
It’s not excessive to include Burks and take on Gay’s additional salary for one year. Once more, we’re negotiating for non-core players and a negligible amount of cap space in exchange for a faraway, unprotected first-round pick.
On a version of the Lakers with Conley, Beasley, Bogdanovic, LeBron, and Lonnie Walker IV, Burks might be a little unnecessary. Whatever. In smaller lineups, they can steal minutes with him at the three, and turning a deficit in second-chance points and three-point shooting into an advantage is hardly bad.
The Lakers’ willingness to pay an increased luxury tax bill following this trade is a different story. They ought to be. However, if they cut corners, this package can be easily revised to remove Burks’ funds from their ledger.