D'Angelo Russell-Russell Westbrook Trade Gives the Lakers Life
The Los Angeles Lakers have a pulse. After a year of letdowns and a roster not build to compete in the crowded Western Conference, a trade deadline deal has injected life into a listless roster.
On Wednesday, the Lakers finally dumped Russell Westbrook in a three-team deal that netted them D'Angelo Russell and two useful role players. It's hard to see this trade as anything but a massive win for LA.
The Lakers never should have traded for Westbrook, it was a huge mistake the day the deal was consummated. Nearly two years later, all the worst fears associated with that move have played out. The team was buried in 13th place in the West with little hope of climbing the ladder. Then the deadline happened.
The Lakers are getting Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, the Utah Jazz will receive Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and a 2027 first-round pick (which is protected 1 through 4), while the Minnesota Timberwolves get Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and three second-round picks (2024, 2025, 2026). The three players LA is receiving fill massive holes and none have bad contracts.
Russell, who the Lakers selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and spent two seasons with the franchise, is obviously the centerpiece. So far this season he's averaging 17.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 32.9 minutes per game. He's also hitting a career-best 39.1 percent from 3-point range. He'll help the Lakers spread the floor for Anthony Davis and LeBron James. While he plays almost no defense, Russell will help take some of the scoring load off the Lakers' Big 2. He'll be a free agent this summer.
Beasley and Vanderbilt will likely step in as key role players, and both should help the team immediately. the 26-year-old Beasley is averaging 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 26.8 minutes per game this season. He'll be a 3-point shooter off-the-bench. He's only hitting 35.9 percent from deep this season, but has a long track record as one of the league's best shooters. The Lakers will have a club option on Beasley for $16.5 million they are likely to decline. If they don't re-sign Russell and Beasley, the Lakers can clear $47.9 million in cap space off the books this summer.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt is the kind of player the Lakers have been missing for years. An athletic 6-foot-8 forward who is versatile and switchable defensively, Beasley has stepped into a starting role for the Jazz this season. He's averaging career-highs in points (8.3) and assists (2.7), while grabbing 7.9 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per game. He's cheap and under team control through next season for $4.7 million. He's an absolute bargain.
Honestly, I'm not sure how the Lakers pulled this off. They became a much better 3-point shooting team, still have enough playmakers and added a rangy defender with a ton of upside on both ends. This deal is an enormous win for Rob Pelinka and his front office. It should vault the Lakers into playoff contention.