top of page
  • chibuzoikonte2020

The opportunity cost of the Lakers two first round picks

The Lakers should have traded for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. Halfway through the season, the Pacers sit firmly in the playoff race, and the contributions of Hield and Turner can be attributed to some of that success.

Thus far, Buddy Hield has averaged 17.4 points per game and is shooting 42.4% from 3 on 9 attempts per game. Similarly, Myles Turner has been having a career year across the board. His counting statistics read as 17.1 points per game on 55.8% from the field and 39.4% shooting from 3 (3.8 attempts per game), 7.8 rebounds per game, and 2.4 blocks per game. The Lakers currently sit at 27th in the NBA in 3 point shooting percentage and have a 6.3 point differential in 3 point scoring relative to their opponents.

The team’s inability to consistently knock down shots would be alleviated by the addition of Hield and Turner.

(Source: as of January 15 Buddy Hield is second in the league on catch and shoot scoring)

Even though Buddy Hield would add to the Lakers logjam at guard, his unique ability to be an efficient high volume 3 point shooter would help to reconcile that. His ability to consistently knock down shots and create offense through his off ball movement is a skill set that the Lakers do not currently have, and one that would unlock a part of Lebron James’ passing arsenal that has not been optimized since the Lakers 2020 championship run.

In addition to Myles Turner’s 3 point shooting capabilities, he would have helped to provide a stout defensive front court with James and Davis. He provides a defensive presence that Thomas Bryant, who Alperen Sengun made look like a plate of food on Sunday the 15th, and an offensive presence that Wenyen Gabriel does not.

Turner’s ability to protect the rim and defend in space would have complemented Anthony Davis perfectly. He would also return AD to his natural position (power forward), and the position that he played when the Lakers won the championship. Also, Turner’s ability to play the five, would have added insurance to Davis’ health throughout the season.

Russell Westbrook’s on-court production, the Lakers imminent cap space this summer, and the team trading their two future first round picks would have been the three main opportunity costs of pursuing a deal with Indiana.

Thus far, Russell Westbrook has been a star in his role as 6th man and is a front running candidate for the NBA’s sixth man of the year award. His counting statistics per game read as 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 7.7 assists. As Jared Dubin of fivethirtyeight noted, Westbrook has thrived being able to dominate the ball (1.1% YoY increase in usage rate) and play against weaker competition coming off the bench.

With all that being said, I do not believe that Westbrook’s on court production matches his $47 M contract price. Fivethirtyeight currently models his 5 year market value to be $6.5M. That is a significant difference in what he is costing the Lakers balance sheet. It is extremely difficult to reconcile that difference when his salary could have been deployed to add 2 high level role players that better address some of the Lakers roster needs, and better complement the playstyles of Lebron and AD.

Although a Hield and Turner deal would not have addressed the Lakers deficiency in viable wing players, I believe that the incremental improvements of this deal would have instantly made the Lakers competitive in the West. Also, the Lakers would still have tradable contracts in Patrick Beverly ($13M) and Kendrick Nunn ($5.2M) to try and address that area of need.

Who would replace Westbrook’s bench production? That is the common question that I have heard in any proposed deal.

Though his playmaking would not be able to be fully recouped, I believe a trade centered around Hield and Turner would have pushed players like Lonnie Walker IV and Austin Reaves to the bench. Even though they could not recoup all of Westbrook’s playmaking, they would ensure that the Lakers maintain healthy scoring off the bench.

The Lakers imminent cap space in free agency is another cost to consider in a Buddy Hield and Myles Turner trade, or any other trade in the future. Harrison Faigen at Silverscreenandroll breaks down the true value of the Lakers impending cap space. If Damian Jones opts into his player option, and the Lakers send Austin Reaves a qualifying offer, the Lakers would have ~$30M available to go after their desired free agent targets.

Will any player that the Lakers could realistically get in free agency match the production of Hield and Turner? That is the recurring question that comes to mind for me when assessing this cost input.

As Harrison Faigen details, a player like Kyle Kuzma is expected to command ~$20 M - $25 M in free agency. So even if the Lakers still wanted to pursue a 3 star roster construction, ~$30M would not be enough to sign a max player like Kyrie Iriving. They would need to set their sights on players in the tier of Kyle Kuzma, which then resurfaces my question. Does Kyle Kuzma produce the same on court production that Buddy Hield and Myles Turner would bring to Los Angeles?

Using simple math, I do not believe so.

It seems that the Lakers trading their 2027 & 2029 first round draft picks is the opportunity cost of the Hield and Turner deal that proved to be too steep. Given that Malcolm Brogdon, another Indiana starter, was traded to Boston for a top 12 protected first round pick, the historical market price in that deal seems to indicate that the Lakers would have needed to pay a price around that range for Hield and Turner, even if both players do not justify two first round picks.

Though the Lakers own their first round pick in 6 of the next 7 NBA drafts, and have their second round pick for the next 7 NBA drafts, it seems that they elected for draft flexibility over accommodating to their current roster of Lebron and Anthony Davis (when healthy) playing at elite levels.

Source: ZH Highlights YouTube (citation below)

Source: House of Highlights YouTube (citation below)

(The Lakers marquee win against the Bucks was the perfect time to make a trade. James went from 28 - 8 - 11 and Davis had 44 - 10.)

That approach is unfortunate given the signs that the Lakers have shown to be elite when playing with the right pieces. When assessing the costs of the first round picks, I ponder over the question of whether the 2027 & 2029 first round picks (in their prime) will amount to how good Lebron and AD (when healthy) have been this season? For a team hoping to optimize Lebron’s window of playing at an elite level, that would be my top consideration, and why I would feel comfortable trading the picks. However, given the Lakers recent asset management, I can understand the Front Office’s hesitancy towards going all-in on deals for Hield and Turner.

At this point in the season, I do not know how available Turner is. He has rebuffed Indiana’s contract extensions, so theoretically, the Lakers could still seek him (and Hield) as a trade target with the NBA trade deadline approaching. If LA were to sit out on the trade action (as they did last February), they could also use some of their available cap space to pursue Turner in the offseason. However, as Lebron continues to age, I do not think that the Lakers have another season to waste of his better years still left. With that being said, I want to understand what other trades are available that could bolster the Lakers chances of making the playoffs and competing.

There are two trades that come to mind for me. However, both only address two of the three issues that I have identified (lack of: 3 point shooting, wing depth, interior defense in Anthony Davis' absence) and certainly do not guarantee contention in the West.

The first is a deal with the Bulls centered around Russell Westbrook and the Lakers two first round picks for Demar Derozan and Nikola Vucevic.

Source: (Fanspo trade machine)

The main upside of this deal is the offensive boost that Derozan and Vucevic would bring to the Lakers. Over the last 2 seasons, Derozan has averaged 27.2 points per game on 59.2% true shooting. Vuc (fresh off a 40 point game against the Warriors), since joining the Bulls has averaged 18.3 points per game and 11.1 rebounds per game along with 35.1% 3 point shooting on 4.8 attempts per game. A lineup of a guard and Derozan / James / Davis / Vucevic would be very potent and cause a lot of offensive mismatches to be exploited.

On the flipside, Vucevic has been a negative defender his entire career. Does it make sense to trade a first round pick for a player who may not be able to even play in crunch time? For Derozan, he certainly addresses LA’s deficiency in wings, but he comes with question marks with respect to his 3 point shooting. (Derozan has shot 28.5% from 3 on 1.1 attempts per game over the last 5 seasons). The mistake the Lakers made in the Westbrook deal was seeking talent over fit, and it seems that the likelihood of that mistake being repeated is high. If James and Davis are already porous 3 point shooters (both at 29%), where would Derozan fit on the floor? I do not have a direct answer for that, and that makes me anxious. The cost of another first round pick in the deal only compounds those emotions.

There is also the age of Derozan and Vucevic and their pending free agency. Given that both players are 32 +, the value realized from their on court production could dissipate very fast. They also could easily pursue different teams this summer in free agency.

With all of that being said, the biggest deterrent of this potential deal would be the Bulls willingness to partake. The main driver of this deal would be contingent upon the Bulls being sellers at the trade deadline. As the team continues to oscillate, beating good teams and losing to bad, there is no clear telling on what direction Chicago may take. As a result, the viability of this trade happening seems unlikely for the time being.

The second deal, and the one that is more viable, is centered around Patrick Beverly, Kendrick Nunn, 2027 first round pick (top 12 protected) for Detroit’s Bojan Bogdanovic.

(Bojan Bogdanovic is averaging 21.2 points per game and shooting 41.5% from 3 on 5.9 attempts per game)

On the surface, there are a few things to like about this transaction. One, it would free up part of the logjam at guard, while also addressing the Lakers 3 point shooting and wing deficiencies. Bojan would easily complement the playstyle of Lebron and AD by being able to stretch the floor and move off the ball as a shooting threat. He would also help to improve the roster without infringing upon the continuity that the Lakers have built with their rotations.

However, there is still a price of a first round draft pick. As the Lakers postseason chances continue to fluctuate, and the appeal of waiting until the offseason conversely grows, I wonder if exercising patience would be better. As opposed to getting Bogdanovic, the team could go after Kuzma, or a player of a similar caliber, in free agency while not having to spend a future first round pick. Given the contract extension Bogdanovic signed, the additional long term money he makes would have to be another consideration for the Lakers. So even as this trade seems viable, I can understand how the Lakers Front Office personnel could rationalize not wanting to pursue it.

Given how well Lebron and Anthony Davis (when healthy) have played this year, it is unfortunate to see the Lakers continuing to hover below .500. Time will tell what the ceiling of this team will look like, but as a fan, I cannot help but wonder how this season could have turned out with Myles Turner and Buddy Hield.

Work Cited

House of Highlights. “Lebron James 28 PTS 11 REB 8 AST Full Highlights vs Bucks.”

YouTube, YouTube, 2 Dec. 2022,

ZH Highlights. “Anthony Davis 44 pts 10 rebs 3 blks vs Bucks 22/23 season.”

115 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page