One of the NBA’s worst-kept secrets in recent memory is that Buddy Hield was almost traded to the Lakers last summer before Rob Pelinka and the front office pivoted — reportedly under heavy influence from LeBron James and Anthony Davis — to acquire Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards instead.
That deal sent Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, the players that would have reportedly gone to the Sacramento Kings for Hield, to Washington along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a first-round pick, depleting the Lakers of all their best trade assets in exchange for another superstar whose time in L.A. has been, uh, not quite what the team had hoped.
The Lakers are still interested in trading for Hield, however, and have reportedly offered their current best trade asset — Talen Horton-Tucker — as the centerpiece of a package for the Kings shooting guard.
The Kings, however, seem to have shot that down pretty quickly according to Yahoo! Sports NBA insider Chris Haynes, who reported as much on the latest episode of his “Posted Up” podcast:
“League sources have told me the Lakers reached out to the Kings about a Talen Horton-Tucker package for Buddy Hield. (They are) still trying to make that happen. Obviously the Kings are like ‘no, we feel like there’s more lucrative deals out there.’ The Kings are gonna be active, man, they’ve got a whole bunch of people calling them, a whole bunch of teams calling them, they’re gonna be really active.”
Lakers reached out to the Kings about trading for Buddy Hield again pic.twitter.com/piupkQ3sDM— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) January 28, 2022
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Kings are passing on Horton-Tucker (at least for now), especially given Haynes’ assertion that they appear to be swinging for the fences before the Feb. 10 trade deadline. Because after showing plenty of potential in the 2020 NBA bubble and during the 2020-21 season, the former second-round pick has stagnated after being rewarded with a three-year, $32 million deal last offseason.
However, Horton-Tucker has struggled mightily while also dealing with a thumb injury and a COVID-19 layoff in his third NBA season. In the 33 games he’s played, THT is averaging just 10 points while shooting 40% from the field and 25% from three-point range over roughly 26 minutes per game. His defense, which had been a big part of his upside due to his large wingspan, has not been great either.
Hield has struggled this season as well, though, shooting a career-low 37% from deep. So if Sacramento is unwilling to trade even this version of Hield for THT right now, it’s unlikely any team will want to trade an even somewhat valuable player for the Lakers’ 21-year-old, unless something changes quickly.
Haynes, who is as informed as insiders come, made a similar point on his podcast:
“I just don’t know that a package around Talen Horton-Tucker, even with picks, can bring you back another impact player right now. Maybe it can. Maybe it can. But as of right now, I was told the Kings were like ‘no.’ But this is something where the Lakers, they’re talking to a lot of teams. That’s just one team that I know for sure that the connect was made and it was a no-go.”
However, it’s not as though the Lakers have much else in the way of tradeable assets this season thanks to the Westbrook deal, which is why Horton-Tucker’s name has come up constantly in trade rumors over the past few weeks.
Virtually all of the Lakers’ remaining role players aside from THT are on veteran’s minimums, and Westbrook himself isn’t getting traded without a similarly underperforming player on a massive contract — like, say, John Wall — coming back in return. Additionally, a Westbrook salary dump would be akin to a public admission by the Lakers’ power brokers that they screwed up with the Westbrook trade in the first place, which probably isn’t the best look for those who aren’t married to Jeanie Buss’s best friend and want to keep their jobs.
Marc added this, which I find interesting. Feels a lot like everyone involved with the Russ trade saying “I can’t trade him without essentially admitting I should maybe be fired.” pic.twitter.com/dcWdTGTzr7— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) January 26, 2022
In other words, this report should underscore to Lakers fans that the only real midseason help this team will get is James and Davis back on the court and healthy at the same time. The good news is that James and Davis are so, so special at their best that them doing so just might be enough to salvage this season.