Report: Lakers talking Buddy Hield trade, again, this time with Pacers

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It’s a well-worn “what if” among both Lakers fans and critics: What if the Lakers had gone through with a nearly-completed trade for Buddy Hield from Sacramento a year ago rather than pivoting to send a team’s worth of role players to Washington for Russell Westbrook?

With Kyrie Irving trade talks stalled out, the Lakers remain interested in Hield and are talking about a trade with the Pacers, reports ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on NBA Today.

Hield or the Rockets’ Eric Gordon have long been the Plan B for the Lakers.

Hield averaged 15.6 points a game last season, but that jumped to 18.2 once he was traded to Indiana. The sharpshooter shot 36.6% from 3 last season (down from a career average close to 40% — one would think he would get more open looks playing next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis). Hield would be a good fit in the Lakers rotation.

There are two ways to make this trade work.

One is to send Russell Westbrook to Indiana. The Pacers have the cap space to absorb Westbrook’s salary (and buy him out), plus send back Hield. Or, the Pacers can send Hield and Myles Turner plus a minimum-salary player to match the salaries and make the trade. However, the Pacers would not even consider taking on Westbrook in either situation unless the Lakers throw in their 2027 or 2029 first-round pick, likely unprotected (for Hield and Turner it may take more than just the one first). So far, the Lakers have been hesitant to put either of those picks in any trade (ultimately, they will have to if they want to trade Westbrook).

Sending Westbrook to Indiana would essentially end any Lakers’ pursuit of Irving. Making that trade without Westbrook’s salary (likely going to a third team) is exceedingly difficult.

The second Lakers trade option is to send Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and enough smaller salaries (Stanley Johnson and Damian Jones work, but there are other combos) to match Hield’s salary. The Lakers discussed a Hield for Horton-Tucker combination with the Kings after the Westbrook deal but got nowhere. This trade only works if the Pacers front office is higher on Horton-Tucker than the rest of the league right now, or, the Lakers throw in one of their first-round picks.

The main takeaway here should be the Lakers are not done dealing. They realize that the roster they currently have is not winning a title — and with a 37-year-old LeBron on the roster, the Lakers are as “win now” a team as it gets. Adding Hield or Gordon would not vault the Lakers to contender status, but it would make them better. And every option is on the table.