As the Los Angeles Lakers continue to pursue Kyrie Irving, one thing has become increasingly clear: they’re powerless until the Kevin Durant situation resolves. If Durant is dealt? It no longer makes sense for the Nets to keep Irving on an expiring contract. If Durant stays put? Irving is a key part of keeping Brooklyn in contention. The Lakers can wait for Irving, but not forever. Eventually, they’ll need to pursue other avenues to shooting.
One that’s being explored? According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers have re-engaged the Indiana Pacers on a deal involving Buddy Hield. There are multiple formats such a trade could take.
The obvious would involve Russell Westbrook going back to Indiana. The Pacers have plenty of cap space, so they theoretically could absorb him by sending Hield out, or they could match his salary by including Myles Turner. There is no indication yet that they are willing to do that. If the Lakers do include Westbrook’s expiring $47 million salary, trading for Westbrook mid-season would become significantly harder and would necessitate the salary of either Turner or Hield.
The other option would be for the Lakers to match Hield’s salary using multiple players. They could do so with Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and one minimum salary (Wenyen Gabriel would be the likeliest option). Of course, either trade scenario would involve the Lakers sending draft compensation back to the Pacers.
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Indiana appears ready to rebuild. Hield is a particularly likely trade chip because of how crowded Indiana’s backcourt has become. With Tyrese Haliburton, Chris Duarte and Bennedict Mathurin in place, there simply isn’t room for Hield moving forward. Turner is the only notable big man on Indiana’s roster, but he is on an expiring contract and coming off of a major foot injury.
The Lakers would seemingly prefer to trade for Irving. He is the preferred target of LeBron James and the best player reasonably available to them. But they can’t wait forever. Sooner or later this team needs to add shooting. If Indiana can give it to them, it’s an option they’re going to explore.