1. Home
  2. sports
  3. news
  4. The Lakers nixed a big trade and went after Russell Westbrook instead. Now it looks like a mistake.

The Lakers nixed a big trade and went after Russell Westbrook instead. Now it looks like a mistake.

Scott Davis   

The Lakers nixed a big trade and went after Russell Westbrook instead. Now it looks like a mistake.
  • The Lakers reportedly had a trade in place for Buddy Hield when they pursued Russell Westbrook.
  • Hield would have been a better fit for the Lakers and left more pieces in place on the roster.

The Los Angeles Lakers may have made the wrong trade this past offseason.

The Lakers went all-in to acquire Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards, sending away Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and their 2021 first-round pick.

The deal essentially stripped the roster bare, leaving just LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Westbrook, while leaving the Lakers with very few assets left to trade.

It hasn't worked out. The Lakers currently sit at 27-33, 9th in the West, having lost seven of their last 10 games. Westbrook has struggled mightily and has often been made the scapegoat for the Lakers' disappointing season (though his play has been just one of the team's many issues).

It's a big "what-if" for the Lakers: what if they had traded for Buddy Hield instead of Westbrook?

According to multiple reports, the Lakers and Sacramento Kings had a deal in place to send the sharp-shooting Hield to the Lakers in exchange for Kuzma and Harrell. The Athletic's Jason Jones wrote in July that the deal seemed "all but certain" to happen.

Instead, the Lakers backed out to acquire Westbrook, thanks to some pressure from James, who wanted another playmaker on the team. Indeed, The Athletic outlined how James and Davis had researched and spoke to numerous stars around the league and felt Westbrook was the best fit of players available.

That decision may have left the Lakers in a worse place today.

Hield is a better fit and would have saved the Lakers assets

Hield doesn't carry the star power of Westbrook, but he might have been a better fit for the Lakers.

Over the past four seasons, Hield has averaged 18 points on 39.6% three-point shooting. While he's not a reliable shot-creator or defender, he is the type of catch-and-shoot player that has historically thrived next to James.

Though James reportedly wanted more ball-handling around him, the Lakers would likely have benefited more from the spacing Hield could have provided than Westbrook's playmaking (which has not given the Lakers much of a boost at all).

The reported deal in place for Hield also would have allowed the Lakers to keep Caldwell-Pope, a reliable "3 and D" wing. Caldwell-Pope played a pivotal role in the Lakers' 2020 championship and is the type of sturdy wing defender the team is missing.

And while draft picks are no sure thing, the Lakers' 2021 first-rounder (which became Isaiah Jackson, who is now on the Indiana Pacers) could have been a useful player for them or another trade chip to use at the deadline. The Lakers were limited to only trading their 2027 first-round pick, leaving them few options to upgrade their team.

There are also questions about how the Lakers could have operated over the rest of free agency.

With Hield's $23 million salary in place over Westbrook's $44 million salary, the Lakers might have been willing to pay more luxury tax. As The Athletic's Bill Oram detailed, the Lakers refused to match a 2-year, $20 million salary for beloved role player Alex Caruso because of the tax bill it would have incurred. The Lakers would still have paid the luxury tax on such a contract, but that $20 million difference between Hield and Westbrook's salaries might have made it easier.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka did an admirable job filling out the roster, but veteran signings like Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington, and Deandre Jordan simply haven't worked out. Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk have been the two best contributors of the team's offseason signings, and even then, the team has had to rely on the 37-year-old Anthony as a second and third option a bit too much this season — a sign of their lack of depth.

The Lakers' decision to pivot away from surrounding James and Davis with shooters and defenders — a formula that helped them win the 2020 championship — was a puzzling one. Though James may have played a role in convincing the Lakers to acquire Westbrook, the concerns about his fit and the domino effect it would have on the rest of the roster were apparent immediately.

The Lakers' playoff chase this season is not over, but things aren't trending in the right direction. The team may soon have to shift focus to rebuilding this roster once again this coming offseason.


Popular Right Now