During his final year with the Indiana Pacers, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel got the opportunity to coach Myles Turner as a rookie, and last week before the Lakers took on the Pacers at Staples Center, it was clear Vogel still has a ton of respect for his former player.
“Their size gives them a presence defensively,” Vogel said. “Myles is obviously the league leader in shot-blocking, so we have to be smart about how we attack him there.”
Seems innocuous enough, right? To be fair to Vogel, it probably was, but it’s also hard not to see the praise in a slightly different light when learning that — according to J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star — the Lakers have shown some interest in Turner prior to the NBA trade deadline on March 25:
The New York Knicks, L.A. Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans are among those who have explored whether the Pacers are willing to part with the league’s leading shot-blocker, league sources tell IndyStar.
Now, this may just be Rob Pelinka and the front office doing their due diligence. As Michael details and many others have written about, the Pacers had made Turner very available during the offseason, most notably offering him to the Boston Celtics in a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward.
But no one took the deal, and Turner has instead been a revelation for the Pacers. Other than leading the league in blocks, the Pacers are also four points per 100 possessions better defensively when Turner plays than they are when he sits. That may not sound like much, but it’s the difference between the league-best Lakers and eighth-ranked San Antonio Spurs, per NBA.com.
So he’d be a great pick-up, right? Well, yes. The only problem? Unlike this summer, Turner isn’t readily available, according to Michael:
If there’s a move to be made, league sources tell IndyStar, the Pacers aren’t shopping Turner. Understand, however, the trade market can change on a dime. When they shipped Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets two months ago for LeVert, that kind of deal wasn’t there before the season tipped.
Some of this is trade deadline semantics. Sure, the Pacers aren’t shopping Turner, they’re just letting it leak who is interested in him to the local columnist in an attempt to start a bidding war. And that’s more where the problem is for Los Angeles. Turner is making $18 million this year, so it’s hard to construct a trade for him given who the Lakers have on their roster.
However, if the Lakers are going to make a move for Turner, it would be on some level a tacit admission that they’re unsatisfied with their current center rotation, right? So if they really want him, they could potentially try what I call the “Scrap It and Start Over” deal:
The Lakers would also probably have to include a pick of some kind here, and just for posterity, we should note that if the Pacers did demand more value... Alex Caruso works here in place of Marc Gasol.
For the record, the same caveats apply here as for P.J. Tucker yesterday: A three-for-one trade is incredibly difficult to make work during the season, especially with the Lakers being hard capped. I’m also not saying the Lakers should desperately be trying to trade anyone mentioned above. I’m just looking at what it would take, cap-wise, to try and deal for Turner. And given how much he is making, this is really the only realistic avenue to acquire him.
All that said, Turner is also a lot more likely to be worth the hassle than a 35-year-old in Tucker. At just 24, Turner is one of the league’s best defensive big men and a versatile offensive player who could potentially be the perfect frontcourt complement to Anthony Davis for years to come, and the exact kind of more traditional big man the internet is convinced the Lakers are missing. It’s probably unlikely that they can get this done before the deadline because of how complicated it would be, but it is another leak about another big guy, which at the very least that should tell us what the Lakers’ priorities are as the deadline and buyout market approach.