The Rules of Pacers Digest

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Hypothetical: Lakers trade

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  • cinotimz
    Translation...after watching Turner and Hield stink it up in 2 games in LA, theres no way they think the two of them are worth the two picks...

    The media spin and attempted manipulation of the pathetic Lakers saga is indeed sickening, least if you got Pat Bev you could trade him to Minnesota...although i dont think they have any picks left after the Gobert deal

    Lakers leaning toward dealing Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn instead of Russell Westbrook (

    Lakers leaning toward dealing Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn instead of Russell Westbrook


    • Los Angeles Lakers

    • Kendrick Nunn

    • Patrick Beverley

    • Russell Westbrook

    Robert Marvi
    Thu, December 1, 2022 at 8:00 AM?2 min read
    In this article:

    • Los Angeles Lakers
      Tomorrow7:30 PMvsMIL

    • Kendrick Nunn

    • Patrick Beverley

    • Russell Westbrook

    Just about everyone agrees the Los Angeles Lakers need to make a trade if they will have any hope of contending for the NBA championship this season.

    After a very poor 2-10 start, they have shown definite signs of life by winning six of their last eight games. Their offense has been trending upward over the last few weeks, and Anthony Davis has been playing like his best self.

    The conventional wisdom has been that Russell Westbrook would be the bait that would possibly bring L.A. its one or two missing pieces.

    But now that Westbrook is playing well in his role off the bench, that thinking may have changed. Reportedly, the Lakers may instead opt to dangle Kendrick Nunn, Patrick Beverley another player on a veteran minimum contract and a future first-round draft pick.

    Perhaps such a package could yield the Lakers' missing pieces

    Although Nunn has played well at times, his playing time has been inconsistent, which has, perhaps, prevented him from getting into a good rhythm, especially considering he missed all of last season with a bone bruise in his knee.

    Beverley, on the other hand, has been completely ineffective offensively and has shot under 30% this season, despite being a career 37.5% 3-point shooter.

    The Lakers not only need more 3-point shooting, but they also need one or two bona fide 3-and-D players, particularly at the power forward position. While fans may balk at having to give up a future first-round pick along with Nunn and Beverley, it may be a reasonable price tag for a couple of players who would make the team extremely competitive.

    It should be noted that Beverley, who makes $13 million this season, and Nunn, who will be paid $5.25 million this year, are on expiring contracts and could provide significant salary cap relief for another team.

    Leave a comment:

  • Wage
    Originally posted by CJ Jones View Post

    Unfortunately you can't fire the owner, and my guess is if we continue to play well, he'll want to make a playoff run.
    Imagine having an owner who thinks 2 home games of ticket sales is worth more than a possible franchise changing player and future championship runs. Then again if you look at the state of Simon might not be far off.

    Leave a comment:

  • cinotimz
    Originally posted by CJ Jones View Post

    Unfortunately you can't fire the owner, and my guess is if we continue to play well, he'll want to make a playoff run.
    true....but that owner has paid a certain center nearly 80 million dollars over the last 7 years or so...and im guessing hes not excited about paying him another penny more considering what he considers his ROI on that particular if he wants to make a playoff run, I think he would prefer to do so without the guy that has effectively stolen a big chunk of money from him...

    he also could be excited by what got him in this position....tanking to get a player like Benn...and with guys like Wemby coming available that could be exciting for him as well...if we are this good after doing it good can we be if we do it one more to speak...

    should be an interesting next month or so

    Leave a comment:

  • MillerTime
    A lot of teams are interested in the Lakers picks. Its not uncommon to have picks being traded in the far future. AD got traded for a bunch of assets, one of which will be the summer of 2023 (pick swap) while the trade occurred in 2019.

    Even if we werent interested in 2027 and 2029 picks, we are re-trade them to another team. Draft capital are very sought after - especially unprotected picks

    Leave a comment:

  • CJ Jones
    Originally posted by Wage View Post

    Meh, I think there is a roughly 0% chance either guy could net us an unprotected first from any non-Lakers team. And if they can and they haven't been traded already, we need to get Pacergeek in here to ramp up the firing threads.
    Unfortunately you can't fire the owner, and my guess is if we continue to play well, he'll want to make a playoff run.

    Leave a comment:

  • Wage
    Originally posted by cinotimz View Post

    u know the saying...theres one born everyday...

    if a borderline playoff team gets desperate...or a solid playoff team loses a key piece....well then anything is possible when someone gets somewhat desperate...

    which is pretty much what happened with the Cavs last year...

    its certainly not out of the realm of possibility...especially depending on how the two of them play...if they play like they did last night, well its gonna be a much harder sell...thats for sure
    Yeah but the value gap between lotto protected pics (what we got for LeVert and Brogdon) vs unprotected pics is damn near infinite.

    Leave a comment:

  • cinotimz
    Originally posted by Wage View Post

    Meh, I think there is a roughly 0% chance either guy could net us an unprotected first from any non-Lakers team. And if they can and they haven't been traded already, we need to get Pacergeek in here to ramp up the firing threads.
    u know the saying...theres one born everyday...

    if a borderline playoff team gets desperate...or a solid playoff team loses a key piece....well then anything is possible when someone gets somewhat desperate...

    which is pretty much what happened with the Cavs last year...

    its certainly not out of the realm of possibility...especially depending on how the two of them play...if they play like they did last night, well its gonna be a much harder sell...thats for sure

    Leave a comment:

  • Eleazar
    Originally posted by graphic-er View Post
    Again though, why would the Pacers help the Lakers by giving them 2 starters for 2 future draft picks like 5 years from now. That is a very bitter trade for the Pacers to make with lousy return. They could split this deal up to any number of teams and get a first rounder for either of these players at this point. Both Buddy and Turner are balling out right now. There is no reason to take the Lakers poo poo platter.
    At this point, I think it is unlikely that the Pacers would do that due to the early success this group has had. If we were performing the way everyone thought we would be, the reason would be is because those two future draft picks would likely be the best value draft picks you could get in return for two middling starters. The only teams who would be interested in trading a pick for Turner or Hield are teams who are already playoff teams who think one of these two players could fill a hole in their roster. Those picks are likely to be 20+. Meanwhile, those two picks 5+ years away from now are very likely to be high lottery picks based on the direction of the Lakers and their previous trades resulting in them not controlling any of their future tradable picks. Who cares if it is 5 years away, if anything that is a good thing as you can get an influx of high end cheap talent right when the team will need to start paying Haliburton, Mathurin, and potentially others big money.

    There is only one potential downside of the trade, which would be the Lakers somehow convince Luka or Giannis to sign with them. It being the Lakers means it isn't out of the question, but I think it is more likely the Lakers are going to struggle attracting talent after LeBron retires.

    Leave a comment:

  • Wage
    Originally posted by graphic-er View Post
    Again though, why would the Pacers help the Lakers by giving them 2 starters for 2 future draft picks like 5 years from now. That is a very bitter trade for the Pacers to make with lousy return. They could split this deal up to any number of teams and get a first rounder for either of these players at this point. Both Buddy and Turner are balling out right now. There is no reason to take the Lakers poo poo platter.
    Meh, I think there is a roughly 0% chance either guy could net us an unprotected first from any non-Lakers team. And if they can and they haven't been traded already, we need to get Pacergeek in here to ramp up the firing threads.

    Leave a comment:

  • Cubs231721
    Originally posted by graphic-er View Post
    Again though, why would the Pacers help the Lakers by giving them 2 starters for 2 future draft picks like 5 years from now. That is a very bitter trade for the Pacers to make with lousy return. They could split this deal up to any number of teams and get a first rounder for either of these players at this point. Both Buddy and Turner are balling out right now. There is no reason to take the Lakers poo poo platter.
    It's because people value those draft picks very differently. Some people hate getting draft picks far out. Others think that getting unprotected picks far out are the most amazing picks you can get because that's the only reasonable way to get a chance of getting a top 8 pick. And as we have seen now with Brooklyn, the Lakers, even the Clippers...teams who trade far out picks don't tend to stay amazing every year. They end up giving lottery picks a good amount of the time.

    Leave a comment:

  • graphic-er
    Again though, why would the Pacers help the Lakers by giving them 2 starters for 2 future draft picks like 5 years from now. That is a very bitter trade for the Pacers to make with lousy return. They could split this deal up to any number of teams and get a first rounder for either of these players at this point. Both Buddy and Turner are balling out right now. There is no reason to take the Lakers poo poo platter.

    Leave a comment:

  • cinotimz
    New article this morning...from the guy who covers the Lakers for ESPN

    Westbrook, Hield, Turner - Five questions to answer before the proposed Lakers-Pacers trade (

    After the Indiana Pacers play the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday at Arena and continue on the road to Sacramento, center Myles Turner might have mixed feelings about boarding the team plane instead of staying in L.A.

    Last month, after trade talks between the Pacers and Lakers fizzled just before training camp, Turner took the rare tactic of publicly lobbying for the teams to revisit the deal.

    "If I'm the Lakers, I take a very hard look at this with the position that you're in," Turner said, responding to a question about the potential swap as a guest on ESPN's "The Woj Pod" with Adrian Wojnarowski. "I know what I can provide for a team -- my leadership, my shot-blocking, my 3-point ability and just my ability to make plays out there on the floor."

    The proposed trade, which involved Turner and shooting guard Buddy Hield going to the Lakers and L.A. sending point guard Russell Westbrook and draft capital in return, fell apart when the Lakers backed away, multiple sources told ESPN.
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    The Lakers decided that giving up both their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks -- the only future first-round assets they have in their draft chest -- was too steep a price to pay for a haul that wouldn't indisputably propel them to contender status, sources said.

    Plus the Lakers reasoned, sources said, the same deal with the Pacers would still be there down the line should they reengage.

    With the Lakers (7-11) and Pacers (11-8) set to meet Monday (10:30 p.m. ET), here are five questions to answer as L.A. considers whether to deal or not to deal.
    When could this trade happen?

    When the Lakers started the season 0-5, Wojnarowski reported L.A. would wait until around Thanksgiving before looking to upgrade the team. The thinking behind that timing, team sources said, was threefold. Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka wanted to see how the group that was assembled in the offseason, featuring six players from last season's team, looked together; he wanted to give first-year head coach Darvin Ham the chance to bring his vision for reinvigorating Westbrook to life; and he didn't want to come off as desperate with early-season trade talk, knowing other teams would take advantage in any potential negotiations.

    Where things stand now is an adjusted timeline for L.A. The Lakers expect more teams will be willing to engage them in trade talks after Dec. 15, when contracts that were signed in the summer are eligible to be moved, sources said. But even with more possibilities opening up, league business slows around the holidays, so the odds of any action before mid-January are remote.

    Of course, the deeper into the season it gets with the Pacers still looking like a playoff lock in the Eastern Conference, the more Indiana's stance on unloading current talent for future flexibility could change. The Pacers' owner, real estate mogul Herb Simon, is 88 years old. While most league governors value chasing championships above all else and prefer rebuilds over mediocrity, the Lakers aren't convinced Simon would dismantle a winning team to tank for the No. 1 draft prospect in Victor Wembanyama, sources said, preferring to enjoy a competitive group in his autumn years.
    What would Turner and Hield bring to the table?

    The Lakers rank 28th in the league in 3-point percentage (31.9), driven by a league-worst wide-open 3-point field goal percentage and a catch-and-shoot 3-point field goal percentage that also ranks 28th, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
    Could the Los Angeles Lakers still pull off a trade that involves Russell Westbrook and draft capital going to Indiana for Myles Turner (33) and Buddy Hield (24)? Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images
    Their wide-open 3-point percentage, defined as a shot taken when the closest defender is at least 6 feet away at the time of release, is historically bad -- if their 31.9% mark on wide-open 3s sticks, it would be the worst rate of any team in any season since player tracking began in 2013-14.

    Adding Hield could go a long way to fixing that. He's sixth in the league in 3-pointers made per game (3.8). He's also second in made catch-and-shoot 3s per game, behind only Klay Thompson, and ranks in the top five in accuracy on wide-open 3s.

    Hield could allow the Lakers to get more out of LeBron James, who has assisted on the most 3s in NBA history. His Lakers teammates this season are shooting 22.9% on wide-open 3s off his passes, which is the worst percentage for any passer who has created at least 40 wide-open 3 opportunities this season, according to Second Spectrum.

    And Turner, who is in a contract year, is putting up career-best numbers in scoring (18.2 points), FG% (55.9), 3FG% (43.1), FT% (82.9) and rebounds (8.1) per game. He has played in 14 of 19 games for the Pacers after suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him for the first week of the season.

    The Lakers' defense has allowed opponents to shoot 68% at the rim in November, seventh worst in the league this month. Turner can help there, too. The 26-year-old is averaging 2.8 blocks per game, a category he has led the league in twice in his eight seasons.

    And he would allow Anthony Davis to continue playing inside, where he prefers, with his range from deep.
    Is Westbrook still a problem for L.A.?

    Not necessarily, but his contract is. The Lakers don't have enough reliable players and turning Westbrook's $47.1 million contract into two rotation players gets them closer to the depth needed for a postseason run.
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    Westbrook's 15.7 points and 8.1 assists per game as a reserve have been a rare bright spot in the Lakers' season. After struggling so much last year, he has found a rhythm as the leader of the second unit.

    Some of Westbrook's decision-making has been second guessed -- notably by Davis following a loss to the Kings on Nov. 11 that dropped the Lakers to 2-10. "Couple 'my bads' at the end of the first half, and they go on a 14-5 run," Davis said, referring to a rough stretch by the point guard when L.A. lost momentum going into halftime. "Certain moments where we can't have 'my bads.'" Westbrook is also shooting a career-worst 39.4% from the field and has the seventh-worst turnover rate in the league, while playing the fewest minutes of anyone in the bottom 10.

    Ham, who adjusted Westbrook's role from starter to sixth man just five games into the season, has continuously championed the 15-year veteran since the change.

    "I love what he's bringing, coming off with that second unit and giving us a boost when needed," Ham said when asked, after James suffered a groin injury earlier this month, if Westbrook would return to the starting lineup. "Just him being able to orchestrate and be Russ. Dominate the ball, dominate the pace and play free."

    But if the Lakers intend to upgrade the roster this season around James to give the 20-year veteran his best chance at another championship run, as Pelinka said was his goal over the summer as the "caretaker of LeBron's legacy," then it would simply have to involve Westbrook's contract.
    So what concerns remain?

    Let's start with Turner's availability. He has played in only 89 out of 154 of Indiana's games the past two seasons because of foot and ankle injuries -- hardly reliable insurance should Davis get hit by injuries, as he has the past two seasons.
    play0:32Showtime Lakers! LeBron to Russ back to LeBron for the slam

    LeBron James gets the loose ball, feeds Russell Westbrook, who gives it back to LeBron for the dunk.

    There are other questions the Lakers' front office considered when evaluating the trade before training camp, sources said, that left L.A. reluctant to go all-in. Questions such as:

    Would either Turner or Hield be clear-cut members of L.A.'s closing lineup in a playoff game?

    Would Turner be able to stay on the court if the opponent went small?

    Would Hield bring enough defensively, or would Ham trust in a wing like Austin Reaves or Troy Brown Jr. more in that spot?

    And, recalling the franchise's trades for free-agent-to-be Dwight Howard in 2012 and Dennis Schroder in 2020, is it worth risking what could be valuable future draft capital to acquire Turner for what could amount to only a few months in Los Angeles if he walks the way Howard and Schroder did?
    Would the Lakers' season be saved by a trade?

    Maybe. There is belief shared by leaders in the Lakers' locker room, sources said, that the team is only a couple of players away from turning this group into a legitimate contender. But acquiring the right players could take multiple trades.
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    Which is why attaching both 2027 and 2029 draft picks to get a deal done with Indiana is such a gut check. Pelinka admitted as much on media day in September. "You have one shot to make a trade with multiple picks," he said. "So if you make that trade, and I'm not talking about one particular player on our team, but it has to be the right one."

    Otherwise, maybe there is a way to seek one deal centered on Westbrook and one of the two picks, and another using something like Patrick Beverley's salary ($13 million) and Kendrick Nunn's ($5.3 million) -- the only other contracts on the Lakers' books hefty enough to pair together to salary match for a proven player -- plus the other pick to add another player of consequence.

    But the clock is ticking. Even with improved play as of late, at 7-11 L.A. is still three games out of the final play-in spot in the Western Conference.

    And the schedule is unforgiving leading up to the mid-January timeline when L.A. anticipates offers could materialize. Including Monday's game against the Pacers, 15 of the Lakers' next 23 games between now and Jan. 9 are on the road. If at that point, nearly 40 games into the season, the Lakers are still below .500 -- a reasonable concern considering L.A. is 2-6 on the road so far -- would leveraging the future to pour into this group be worth it?

    Or should the Lakers play this season out with the roster as currently constructed, use salary-cap space to sign free agents in the summer and explore trades involving picks after draft night when they will have the player they selected with their 2023 first-round pick available to deal?

    For now in Lakerland, there remain far more questions than answers.

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  • MillerTime
    Just my opinion, but I think the Lakers will bite the bullet and do the trade. Mainly to show Lebron that they’re committed to winning a championship with him. I think the Lakers will have a decent roster with this trade


    Leave a comment:

  • MrHale
    i hope we do this trade. its awesome that we are willing to take on 40mil for some picks.

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  • Ozys Nepimpis

    Inside the Lakers’ Russell Westbrook plan: Why he’s still in L.A., but the possibility of a trade still exists

    Shams Charania, Sam Amick, Jovan Buha
    Oct 3, 2022


    Russell Westbrook’s second season with the Lakers gets going on the hardwood Monday night in Los Angeles, when a preseason game against Sacramento tips off and the future Hall of Famer finds himself under the spotlight yet again.

    While Westbrook wasn’t traded in the summer like so many across the league expected, league sources tell The Athletic that the prospect of him being traded in the coming weeks and months remains real. In a perfect world, Westbrook would find his stride with these Lakers, the team would perform at a high level, wins would follow and the franchise would finally show its short- and long-term potential. But a decision to trade him or not would be based on a multitude of factors – not the least of which are his play and his continued willingness to follow through on the plan set forth by first-year coach Darvin Ham. For this storied franchise that wants so desperately to make the most of LeBron James’ twilight years after he signed an extension in mid-August, this is a crucial choice that could determine whether the Lakers return to title contention anytime soon.


    The following is an updated look at the situation.

    On the cusp of training camp, as media day neared and the topic of Westbrook’s uncertain future continued to dominate the conversation around the NBA, sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations say the Lakers’ key decision-makers spent several days engaged in deep conversations about the feasibility of a blockbuster trade with Indiana.

    Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued.

    There was much to consider for them all, and there was momentum at times toward a deal going down.

    Do we put both of our chips on the table now or save them for a better deal down the line? Would Turner and Hield be championship difference-makers long-term, or would Turner’s looming free agency this summer undermine their big-picture plan?

    While Pelinka has been given the ultimate power to make these decisions, sources say there was a desire for the entire group to come to a consensus. It appears the voices of Joey and Jesse Buss are being considered among Lakers leaders now more than ever. If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.


    Only time will tell if this sort of collaboration is the new norm for Lakers leadership, which in recent years had kept its inner circle small with Jeanie Buss, Pelinka and Rambis. Ironically, the decision to bring Westbrook to town the prior summer in the trade with Washington was not made in this sort of fashion.

    (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Despite everything that went on last season, there was still some measure of optimism that Westbrook would find his way under Ham in ways that he never did under former coach Frank Vogel. Jeanie Buss, perhaps most of all, was of the belief that the combination of Ham’s style and on-court plan could be the solution here.

    The 33-year-old future Hall of Famer had said all the right things in recent months, telling Pelinka, Jeanie Buss and Ham in separate meetings that he was committed to the organization and prepared to do whatever was needed for the team to win. More specifically, it was seen as a good sign that he didn’t focus on the need to have the ball as he had the season prior.

    But the Lakers still wanted to exhaust every available option to improve the roster. They had explored ways of landing Nets star Kyrie Irving during the offseason, discussed concepts with the Jazz around Bojan Bogdanovic prior to him being traded to the Pistons for Kelly Olynyk and Saben Lee and even tried to land former Laker Jordan Clarkson from the Jazz before it was made clear that Utah owner Ryan Smith had no intentions of letting him go. All roads continued to lead to a potential framework with the Pacers.

    Throughout the summer, the Lakers and Pacers discussed several trade iterations. Some included just Turner, such as a package that would have sent Westbrook and one first-round pick for Turner, sources said. Others included deals centered on just Hield. The Pacers signed Deandre Ayton to a four-year, $133 million maximum offer sheet that was matched by the Suns during the Las Vegas Summer League in July, creating a potential opening for the franchise to swing a deal involving Turner. The Lakers’ initial formal talks with the Pacers came after Summer League, when in the weeks to follow the sides discussed Westbrook, one first-round pick and second-round compensation for both Turner and Hield, sources said.


    The Lakers and Pacers also discussed adding a third team, such as the Grizzlies, who could take a 2027 or 2029 first-rounder from the Lakers for two first-rounders of their own to send to Indiana, according to sources. For the Pacers, every conversation with the Lakers led to an ultimate demand: Both of L.A.’s available first-round picks — or no deal.

    Pacers owner Herb Simon showed increasing interest as the summer went on in having new lead guard Tyrese Haliburton, Turner and Hield start the season together, so an asking price of two unprotected first-rounders was unintentionally a difficult barometer to meet. Would the Lakers meet it? Sources added that the Pacers, despite the Lakers’ wishes, made it clear they were not interested in sending second-round picks in a potential deal. With the price of landing Turner and Hield higher than the Lakers’ liking, they had hoped for second-round compensation as a way of increasing their return.

    (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

    In the end, the Lakers chose not to make the formal offer after several long debates among the stakeholders, a collaboration that led to a prudent, patient approach to the Pacers conversations. A potential deal would’ve meant that the Lakers in effect would have traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the chance to re-sign Alex Caruso and three first-round picks for Turner and Hield, when taking into account the totality of the original Westbrook trade.

    In addition, James has shown support publicly and privately to integrating Westbrook and playing with the former league MVP again this season, and multiple sources said he applied no pressure to the Lakers front office to do the Pacers’ deal. Seven months have passed since James’ tweet supporting the “f— them picks” approach of Rams GM Les Snead led some to wonder how he saw the Lakers’ strategy, and sources say he remains supportive of the current regime. And while Pelinka made it clear on media day that he’s willing to trade precious picks in the right deal, that time has yet to arrive.

    “One thing that needs to be made clear is a lot of speculation: Will the Lakers trade their picks? Will they not trade their picks?” Pelinka said at media day. “Let me be abundantly clear: We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract. So of course, we will do everything we can, picks included to make deals to give us a chance to help LeBron get to the end. He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

    The Lakers have two first-round picks eligible to be traded for the remainder of the decade, giving the team’s key power brokers the realization that they must be judicious to make sure the asset pool is utilized for the right trade, the right players, the right package. Hield has this season ($21.7 million) and 2023-24 ($19.2 million) remaining on his deal, and sources say Hield and the Pacers are open to a trade that makes sense for both sides. The Lakers surely could use Hield’s shooting, durability and veteran savvy, although his defense, handle and current multiyear deal raised questions about the fit.

    Turner, meanwhile, is in the final season of a four-year, $80 million extension he signed in 2018. The talented center’s desire to reach unrestricted free agency in 2023, along with an expected price tag that could begin at $25 million per year, are known to be significant factors in the Lakers’ calculus. Sources also say the Lakers had focused on the question of whether they want three frontcourt players (James, Anthony Davis and Turner) atop their payroll in a perimeter-oriented league. The Lakers are currently slated to have upwards of $34 million in projected cap space next summer, bringing flexibility for free agency or trades.

    Throughout the summer, Irving was the prized superstar whose name was front and center of Lakers fans. Sources say the Lakers made multiple inquiries and submitted concepts to the Nets on potential Irving deals in July and August, but upon opting into his $36.9 million player option in late June, Irving had committed to Brooklyn for the upcoming season.

    So as July wore on and led into August, Brooklyn shut the door on any Irving trade – closing the window on a Irving-James reunion. The Nets made clear they had no intention to move Irving and ultimately resolved Kevin Durant’s trade request to continue building their championship hopes around All-Stars in Irving, Durant and Ben Simmons. As for the prospect of adding Irving via free agency next summer, sources say he’s currently not a part of the Lakers’ long-term plans.

    There is an undeniable advantage to waiting here. Not only do the Lakers get a chance to see Westbrook in Ham’s system before making a more educated decision about the Pacers trade, but they keep the door open for other trade opportunities as well. Every season, high-level players become available closer to the February trade deadline when their teams underperform. All the while, the Lakers will be watching Westbrook closely while continuing to ponder what comes next.

    So far in training camp, Westbrook has been described as a solid professional and as a player providing both energy and passion during the Lakers’ scrimmages. That’s a continuation of the summer, when Westbrook attended Ham’s and Beverley’s introductory press conferences, respectively, and sat next to the team’s bench during their first summer league game in Las Vegas.

    “My job is to be professional, show up to work, like I’ve always done,” Westbrook said on media day last week.

    Ham and his coaching staff will continue to evaluate the Lakers’ starting lineup, which thus far has included Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, James, Davis and Damian Jones. That starting five leaves Patrick Beverley, Austin Reaves and Dennis Schr?der off the bench, but Ham’s lineups appear to be fluid in the leadup to the Oct. 18 season opener at Golden State.

    Westbrook and Ham have gotten off to a much better start than Westbrook and former head coach Frank Vogel did last season.

    During scrimmages, Westbrook has been doing many of the little things that the Lakers have asked of him. He’s been an active on-ball screener. He’s relentlessly pushing the pace in Ham’s uptempo system, looking for his teammates first and his own shot second. He’s been engaged defensively, hounding ballhandlers while adjusting to Ham’s new pick-and-roll coverage.

    Westbrook slightly refined his shooting form this summer, and sources say his catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage has been improved in workouts and scrimmages.

    (David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

    The Lakers are continuing to encourage Westbrook to be himself – something both sides felt that wasn’t fully able to do last season for a variety of reasons. Ham said he’s been implementing offensive schemes that allow James, Davis and Westbrook to play creatively off each other, with each star having an opportunity to initiate the offense, screen, spot up, isolate and post up.

    “We have a three-man package, actually a play-call, that they’re gonna thrive in and it involves all three of them,” Ham said. “So I look forward to that being at a very, very high level. And there’s different nuances in it that they can play around with. And as players do, sometimes they take what you give them and then they create their own little twists and turns to whatever you presented them with and then that ends up becoming a part of the package as well.

    “But I trust all three of those guys.”

    Ham’s trust in Westbrook – and Westbrook’s subsequent trust in Ham – has been a key component in the Lakers’ belief that they can find a way to optimize Westbrook in a winning environment. But if Westbrook struggles and they stumble at the start, then this Lakers brass that has been focused on this issue for so many months now might be back at the bargaining table before long.

    (Top photo of Russell Westbrook: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

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