For most of July, it seemed like the Los Angeles Lakers had a trade lined up for Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield. Those rumblings only grew stronger when Montrezl Harrell exercised the $9.72 million player option in his contract, allowing the Lakers to seamlessly match Hield’s salary. The deal was practically done — even Kyle Kuzma thought so.
Then, out of nowhere, the Lakers and Washington Wizards agreed to terms on a trade that would bring nine-time All-Star and former league MVP Russell Westbrook back home to Los Angeles. Initially, there was faint hope that the trade would expand to a three-team trade involving Buddy Hield, but those hopes quickly faded, much like the talks between the Kings and Lakers.
But what if the Wizards never swooped in? What if the Lakers went into the season with Hield as their starting shooting guard?
I am The Watcher. I am your guide to these vast new realities. Follow me, and ponder the question: “What If?”
Just kidding; I just simulated the season on NBA 2K22. Here’s what happened.
One of the benefits of the Lakers trading for Hield as opposed to Westbrook was that they got to keep Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (at least in this simulated scenario), and although Hield played some point guard out of necessity for the Kings during the 2019-20 season, it was Caldwell-Pope that started at the 1 in the Lakers’ simulated back court with Hield.
Unfortunately, the depth behind Caldwell-Pope and Hield took a hit at the very start of the season, as Talen Horton-Tucker and Rajon Rondo picked up injuries against the San Antonio Spurs. You’re not going to believe this, but Rondo broke his hand — again.
Rondo wasn’t the only Laker to break his hand during the 2020-21 season, though. Carmelo Anthony, who was thriving in his role off of the bench, suffered a broken hand against the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas Day. DeAndre Jordan also tore his hamstring in that game.
The Lakers lost to the Nets 121-109, which dropped them to sixth place in the Western Conference, and their worst fears about their veteran roster were unfolding.
They had an opportunity to improve their roster at the trade deadline, but the best offer they got was Draymond Green for Hield. I, personally, would have done that trade, but the 2K Lakers declined, likely because they didn’t want to kill what little spacing they had.
The Lakers were able to enter the postseason fully healthy, but they got a less-than-favorable matchup in the first round as the No. 5 seed, going up against the Utah Jazz. who ended the regular season with a 15-game winning streak.
Hield was a factor in the Lakers’ Game 1 win over the Jazz, scoring a team-high 27 points, but he didn’t sniff 27 points for the rest of the series. Hield’s inconsistent shooting was a theme in his first season with the Lakers.
Despite going into the season as a career 40.6% 3-point shooter, Hield shot 36% from 3 with the Lakers. Even 2K knows that shooters lose their touch the moment they put on the purple and gold.
His streaky shooting also got him demoted to the bench in favor of Rajon Rondo. Again, maybe a little too on-the-nose. Hield ended the season having averaged just under 12 points per game while averaging 21.4 minutes per game.
The Lakers lost their series with Jazz in six games and were eliminated in the first round. The Jazz made it to the NBA Finals lost in five games to the Brooklyn Nets.
While we don’t know what’s going to happen with the Westbrook-led Lakers this season, it’s safe to say it can’t go much worse than that, right? Right?!