Assessing Bleacher Report’s Russell Westbrook trade for Indiana Pacers

Jan 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon, Los Angeles Lakers: Stanley Johnson, Trevor Ariza
Jan 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Why the Indiana Pacers would accept B/R’s trade for Russell Westbrook

After trading away Domantas Sabonis at the NBA trade deadline, the Pacers signaled that they were entering a rebuild. Moving Sabonis was just the first domino as they are likely to move on from a handful of other pieces this coming offseason, as Charania notes that Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield could become available for trade. Moving those two for Westbrook may seem questionable, but with everything else attached here, it may not be such a bad move.

First off, while taking on Westbrook’s $47 million contract for next season may look unattractive, it is expiring, so it will be far more digestible than in years past. The Pacers can pay Westbrook for next season and then let him walk in free agency or potentially buy him out before he even plays a game with the franchise. While Westbrook is on the books for just next season, Brogdon has an upcoming contract extension that will keep him on the payroll until 2025, while Hield is signed until 2024. Considering that both Brogdon and Hield are 29-years-old, they do not exactly fit the timeline of a rebuild, so moving them off the books rather than keeping them long-term would be justifiable for the Pacers, especially if they can get assets.

The two first rounders are interesting here. Sure, they do not come until 2027 and 2029, meaning the Pacers would have to wait, but that might not be such a bad thing. The Lakers could look much different a few years down the line, and those two picks could be valuable for a rebuilding team like the Pacers. That is just speculation, but the chance to add two first rounders in any capacity would be smart for a team set to rebuild.

The addition of Talen Horton-Tucker in this deal could also be of interest to the Pacers, given that he would fit their rebuilding timeline. Though THT had a turbulent season in Los Angeles, he is still just 21-years-old and has plenty of room to develop. A change of scenery alongside other players such as Tyrese Haliburton, Chris Duarte, and other young pieces could be just what Horton-Tucker needs to unlock his potential. He is also on the books for $10 million next season and has a player option worth $11 million the following year, so adding him would not break Indiana’s bank.

In short, there are plenty of reasons for the Indiana Pacers to like this trade. They can offload two hefty long-term salaries for a short-term player, a budding young guard, and two draft picks that have some potential down the road, which would check several boxes for a rebuilding team.