HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Lakers beat writer Jovan Buha share the latest updates on trade talks surrounding Russell Westbrook. Plus, what LeBron James’ extension means long-term for the Lakers, Patrick Beverley’s chances of staying in Los Angeles beyond this season, whether Carmelo Anthony could return, Austin Reaves’ free agency stock, and more on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.
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1:20 Lakers acquire Patrick Beverley for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson
Scotto: I think he’s the type of dog they need defensively and will hold guys accountable. He fits Darvin Ham’s mold. Patrick Beverley has previously stated he believed the Lakers could be a playoff team if he was on the team, and that feeling remains the same today. He’s going there to help get this team back to the playoffs. Members of the coaching staff are excited about his fit around their stars. Since the trade, he’s been working out in Los Angeles at the Lakers’ practice facility with trainer Aaron Miller, and he’s excited to begin training camp. With Beverley in a contract season, the Lakers will have LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the books for next season, basically, minus a couple of minimum contracts.
Talen Horton-Tucker will have a chance to break out with Utah if Bojan Bogdanovic is traded. Stanley Johnson is hoping to capitalize on a bigger opportunity in a contract season. David Fizdale, Johnson’s former assistant coach with the Lakers and now an associate general manager with the Jazz, has been a fan. Johnson will provide rookie coach Will Hardy with an option who can switch between small and power forwards on defense.
Buha: I think it’s the rare short-term and long-term win for a team in a trade. In the short term, as you mentioned, he fits really nicely alongside LeBron and AD. He has a pretty good track record of fitting alongside stars going back to his Houston days with James Harden, the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and last year in Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards.
He shot close to 40 percent on threes in six of the last seven seasons. Last year was the exception, but he still shot 38.5 percent on catch-and-shoot threes. His percent was lower because he took career-high pull-up threes and off-the-dribble threes, but I don’t think that would be his role in L.A. Offensively, I think it’s an upgrade. Currently, the Lakers are light on shooting, and he’s great in that regard. He’s battle-tested. Defensively, he’s made the All-Defensive Team three years and been a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year in terms of getting votes.
There were some performances last year where the Lakers looked apathetic, had low energy, and didn’t bring the fight. That’s one thing that he always excels in. He’s going to get you hyped up and will stay on you. In terms of role players, he’s up there as one of the more impactful role players in the league. He has that track record of winning pretty much everywhere he’s gone.
Long-term, Horton-Tucker, as you mentioned, had an $11 million option for the 2023-24 season. Pat’s an expiring contract, and getting that money off the books allows the Lakers to create upwards of $30-35 million in cap space depending on what happens with a couple of their minimum guys and rescinding players’ cap holds. They can create legitimate cap space to pursue a third lower-tier max guy. They can add a legitimate player next summer or add a couple of those guys as they did in the championship year when they added Danny Green, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo.
Scotto: Even though Beverley’s contract expires, the Lakers can still try to sign other players and then re-sign him (with Bird Rights). He’s the type of guy you can see with the Lakers past this year, depending on how things go with the team. Anytime you have LeBron and AD, they’re going to be in win now mode. Beverley’s a win-now player.
8:50 Russell Westbrook’s future
Scotto: It seems like the best trade the Lakers can make if they want to move Russell Westbrook and try to win this season is with Indiana for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. One note that’s interesting is before the Lakers traded Talen Horton-Tucker to Utah in the Patrick Beverley trade, the Pacers were trying to get Horton-Tucker, I’m told. Essentially, Indiana was hoping to get Westbrook’s expiring contract, the Lakers’ two first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, along with Horton-Tucker for Turner, Hield and they wanted to make LA take Daniel Theis, who has some years looking ahead on his contract. Theis is more of a fit on a playoff-caliber team as we saw with the Celtics previously. The Lakers weren’t trying to essentially part with THT for Theis in that expanded trade package discussion after already having reservations about moving two first-round picks to get off Westbrook’s contract. In talking with people around the league, anybody that’s taking on Westbrook wants both of those first-round picks.
Buha: As far as Westbrook’s trade market, I’ve heard Indiana and Utah are the two most likely destinations. I think Utah is, from what I’ve been told, more likely than Indiana. There are several permutations there with Indiana where it could be Myles Turner and Buddy Hield together or one of the two.
I’ve heard the Lakers are still reluctant to include that second first-round pick. Maybe that’s something that changes closer to training camp. I know It would’ve changed if Kyrie Irving was still available. That would’ve been the one scenario in which the two picks would’ve been on the table. Aside from that, they’re looking at it like, can we do one first-round pick and a couple of seconds or one pick and a protected pick or pick swap?
I think the asking price has been two first-round picks. It’s very clear what the league wants to take on Russ. I think the Lakers can play hardball, but I feel like, at some point, you’ve got to decide whether they want to bring him into training camp with all the potential distractions and the fit issues we saw last season? Or, enter with a blank slate and bring in Turner and Hield or Bogdanovic and something else with new vibes and energy and guys who fit better.
I think they are going to ramp it up (trade talks) before training camp and get more aggressive from what I’ve been told, but whether that aggression includes giving up two first-round picks, I still like they’re going to fight to try to keep that second first-round pick.
Scotto: You mentioned Utah. I spoke about the three-team trade talks with Utah, the Lakers and Knicks. The Lakers have always had a bit of an eye for Cam Reddish since the trade deadline.
With Danny Ainge, anytime he’s involved with the Lakers, let’s be clear, Ainge is going to try to squeeze the Lakers like a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice. I don’t think there’s any way he’s going to Utah without the two first-round picks. If anything, Ainge is going to try and get them both unprotected like he’s trying to do with the Knicks and get as many unprotected picks as possible (for Donovan Mitchell).
17:45 Kyrie Irving’s chances of going to the Lakers
Scotto: For the Nets, two first-round picks with Westbrook’s contract for Kyrie and even adding another contract the Nets could get off of with long-term money wasn’t necessarily something the Nets wanted to do for two reasons. One, Westbrook and Ben Simmons couldn’t share the floor from a spacing perspective. Ultimately, to then flip Westbrook, they wouldn’t be able to move him for just one first-round pick. At that point, it wasn’t going to make sense.
If you’re a Lakers fan, you’re hoping chaos ensues in Brooklyn and in free agency Kyrie thinks about leaving when the Lakers have cap space next summer. Teams around the league are going to monitor the first 20-25 games of the Nets. If they’re around .500, the birds are going to be chirping to try and get Durant because they’ll be like vultures.
20:20 Myles Turner’s free agency
Scotto: Myles Turner is going to be a free agent this summer, and he’s going to want a pay raise from what he’s making now. From what I’ve heard, they’re going to be looking to try and get over $20 million (annually). That’s something you’ve got to factor in (if you’re trading for Turner).
21:10 LeBron James’ contract extension
Scotto: Two things stuck out when looking at the extension for LeBron James. It aligns him contractually with Anthony Davis, where both players are signed through next season, and both have player options for the 2024-25 season. It also was likely signed with the expectation that the Lakers would go out and improve the team. Patrick Beverley is a start. I think that’s the first domino and not the last one.
Buha: Talen Horton-Tucker is a Klutch client. LeBron has been high on him. I don’t think it was necessarily an easy move for the Lakers. I know there are still people in the organization that are high on THT, and think he’ll have a good year in Utah. It was a move that’ll help the Lakers in the short and long term. I think there are still THT believers who think they’re giving up on this guy at 21 and might regret that at some point. The Beverley move was a sign of the Lakers’ ambition right now to improve the roster and make it a more competitive team. The next domino is figuring out the Westbrook situation.
25:10 Could Carmelo Anthony return to the Lakers?
Buha: I haven’t heard much on the Melo front. It could be possible. I think, looking at the roster, they need more frontcourt depth now that Stanley Johnson is gone. They have a couple of roster openings. They need shooting, and that’s something Melo is still an elite player at. I do think defense remains a concern for this team. They’re light on perimeter and wing defense. That’s not Melo’s strong suit. I think had there been more initial interest earlier this summer, they probably would’ve re-signed him, and he would’ve been back as the second unit power forward. Signing Juan Toscano-Anderson and trading Johnson, I think it’s clear they’re going in a different direction. I wouldn’t completely rule it out, but I think it probably would’ve happened had there still been mutual interest. I think Melo probably ends up somewhere else.
27:55 Austin Reaves’ role and long-term future
Scotto: I asked one NBA coach about Austin, and he told me, “Austin Reaves is really good and better than I thought. He’s versatile. He’s a good on-ball defender. He makes the right play offensively. He finds ways to impact the game and do the little things to help.”
From everything I’ve gathered, he’d like to stay in LA and get a pay raise, and the Lakers would like to keep him.
Buha: From what I’ve been told, he was penciled in as the starting shooting guard next to Russ. A few weeks ago, I did a story on the Lakers’ projected depth chart and talked to a few people around the organization. I’m going to update that and gather more intel on where Pat slides in. He’s always been a starter. I guess, on paper, now you’re probably starting Pat and Russ. I think it’s a bit of a small backcourt. If Russ is on the opening night roster, he’s most likely starting. I don’t see him going for coming off the bench.
Either way, Austin’s going to have a big role on this team. He’s such a smart player. The one player he’s consistently referenced that he’s modeled his game after is Joe Ingles… He’s someone who’s a Jack of all trades and can do everything at least at a competent level. That’s something that can be hard to find. He’s a guy who doesn’t have an ego and is always looking for the betterment of his team and teammates. He’s a selfless guy. He really is going to be a key for this team. He’s someone I think can be a starter or high-end bench player. I think they really uncovered something with him. He’s similar to an Alex Caruso that they should look to retain moving forward.
32:40 Kendrick Nunn injury update
Buha: He’s been around the facility shooting and working out. It’s been a slower than anticipated ramp-up. They’ve got Pat, so he’s the best addition of the offseason, but there’s a chance Nunn is the best free agent addition they make getting him back. He’s a guy they spent the taxpayer mid-level exception on last season. He was pretty solid during his first couple of years in Miami as a combo guard. He’s someone who could develop into the sixth man for this team.