Maybe the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t get Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal or Zach Lavine, but they’re much improved.
Opting for multiple smaller moves, which added depth and actual NBA talent throughout the roster, over the single star player return, the Lakers can finally field a competitive team for the first time since 2020.
The block buster 3 team trade which saw the departure of Russell Westbrook, netting D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt was essential.
Russell, former 2nd overall pick by the Lakers back in 2015 NBA draft, gets his homecoming and fits better with this incarnation of Lakers basketball than the one he departed from.
He’s averaging nearly 18 points and 6.0 assists per game. His turnovers are under 3.0 per game, and it’s by far the most efficient shooting season of his career with his first foray into 60 percent true shooting or better.
In Minnesota Russell’s role was never set in stone. Some games he was the primary ball handler, on other days he was placed in the corner to be a spot up shooter while Anthony Edwards and KAT dominated possessions.
With the Lakers his role will be simple. run the offense when James isn’t on the floor and knock down shots whenever a defense swarms James and Anthony Davis. Simple enough.
His secondary playmaking and lights out shooting are vital needs to a Lakers offense that begins and ends with LeBron James. He is the quintessential guard to run alongside LeBron.
Side note, Russell playing with both Kobe and LeBron in a Lakers jersey is kind of insane.
As for the other parts of this trade, this is where I think the actual upgrade happens. Vanderbilt is exactly the defensive role player the Lakers need. He helped pull the defense together for the Wolves last season, and he’s a pretty good rebounder and can keep possessions alive on offense. He can switch one through four pretty seamlessly, and he doesn’t try to do too much with the ball.
Beasley hasn’t shot the ball well by his standards this season, but we know it’s in there. This campaign in Utah has been an outlier compared to the rest of his career.
Beasley and Vanderbilt are sneakily the steals of this trade.
But the Lakers were not done yet.
On Thursday the Lakers packed up Patrick Beverly out to Orlando in exchange for stretch big Mo Bamba.
Pat Bev shouldn’t have pissed off Shams 💀
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) February 9, 2023
Getting rid of both Westbrook and Pat Beverley in consecutive days is the happiest I have been with the Lakers since 2020.
Bamba is nothing special but does add rim protection with the ability to knock down shots when given the opportunity. And the Lakers rid themselves of Beverley’s antics, so I’ll take it.
End of the day the Lakers had to move off of Westbrook and any of their ancillary pieces to improve the rosters depth and overall talent.
Being able to do so with just losing a top 4 protected future 1st round draft pick is amazing work by the front office. The awareness to also take back $0 in guaranteed money for next offseason keeps the books clean for the chance to land a max contact.
If I had to grade the Lakers deadline trades, its an A-.