The Los Angeles Lakers really don’t want to give up too many draft picks to get rid of Russell Westbrook. For weeks, as negotiations have taken place involving Westbrook, reporting has suggested that the Lakers have balked at including a second first round pick alongside Westbrook.

Given the most recent offer, from the tank-ready Indiana Pacers, the Lakers should be reconsidering that reluctance. The Pacers have offered Myles Turner and Buddy Hield to take on Westbrook in exchange for draft compensation. Indiana wants 2027 and 2029 first round picks, which would further drain the Lakers’ cupboard of future picks. The Lakers are stuck on keeping one of those picks, and that’s where negotiations have reportedly stalled.

Admittedly, LA is in a difficult spot. But it is a hole that they dug for themselves. Trading for Westbrook was a terrible idea from the start and it has gone predictably awry as his contract is poison and his on-court play is intolerable. The Lakers’ roster is brutally weak, to the point that there is not a single starting-caliber NBA player on the roster apart from the two superstars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Even considering the weakness of the roster, the Lakers have to understand that having Westbrook on the team is a ticket to mediocrity. His skillset is not built for winning basketball at this point in his career and he has shown no willingness to adjust. He is completely set on having the ball in his hands all the time, rampaging to the rim, and pulling up for wayward jump shots.

Giving the ball to Westbrook used to be good for your team. Now, though, he can’t ball handle without turning it over an unacceptable amount. His handle is looser than ever and his passes are wild. He struggles to finish at the rim, and all of his missed layups are essentially turnovers because he usually ends up in the front row after tossing the ball off the backboard, letting the other team get an easy bucket.

Westbrook doesn’t space the floor, as he is one of the worst shooters in the NBA who still gives himself the green light. And he doesn’t do anything productive off the ball, like screening or cutting. Defensively, he is a traffic cone who gambles for steals and otherwise lets people into the lane to wait for the defensive rebound. You can’t win with him, especially when he’s taking the ball out of the hands of LeBron.

Trying to salvage Westbrook would be a fool’s errand. The Lakers and new coach Darvin Ham have publicly talked about maximizing Westbrook’s skills and turning him into a defense-first guard. But Westbrook doesn’t seem too happy about this, based on the recent saga with his agent. Recently-fired Thad Faucher made clear in an unusually honest statement that Westbrook doesn’t seem all that thrilled with being in LA, against Faucher’s advice. Signs are pointing to LeBron being tired of the Westbrook experience.

It is hard to imagine Westbrook making any of the necessary changes to his game. He is hardheaded and declining in athleticism. It’s a bad combination. Even on a minimum contract, which he’d probably get somewhere if he were to get traded to Indiana and then be bought out, but  I’m not sure how a team can justify playing him. He refuses to curb his destructive tendencies.

The Lakers need to win right now, while they still have a 38-year-old LeBron who is still somehow playing at an MVP level, as well as Anthony Davis. They should be ready to give up both picks just to get rid of Westbrook, even if they didn’t get any players back. It is addition by subtraction, letting the Lakers rely on LeBron and AD and hoping against hope that the supporting cast surprises people.

The Pacers trade, though, would mean the Lakers would get two starters back. Hield and Turner would change the makeup of the team completely. Hield is a sharpshooter with size, something the Lakers desperately need. He isn’t great on defense, but I thought he was better on that end last season. And if they pair Turner, an elite rim protector, with Davis, they could have a really good defense.

A starting lineup of Kendrick Nunn-Hield-LeBron-Davis-Turner would be pretty good. The bench would be atrocious, and any injury could doom them, but this is by far their best shot. Maybe they could scrape minutes from a developing Austin Reaves (who was pretty good last year!), Talen Horton-Tucker looking for a bounceback, and some combination of Lonnie Walker III, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Troy Brown Jr. The pure force of a healthy LeBron and AD could carry them, as it did in 2020.

Refusing that outcome to instead preserve that future first rounder and run it back with Westbrook would be admitting failure, and conceding the season. The Lakers have already tragically squandered a season of late-career LeBron through pure mismanagement. They have done a terrible job managing the roster, with ownership unwilling to spend and GM Rob Pelinka incapable of making competent roster decisions.

Trading two first round picks to get rid of Westbrook and bring back Turner and Hield would be a huge victory. Passing on it would be further malpractice.

About Harrison Hamm

Sports stuff for The Comeback. Often will write about MLS. Follow me on twitter @harrisonhamm21.