Roughly 36 hours after moving on from Kyrie Irving, the Lakers executed a trade that signals 3 concerning realities.
The Lakers traded Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson to Utah in exchange for Patrick Beverley, as first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Beverley addresses two of the Lakers’ biggest current needs: 3-point shooting and perimeter defense. He’s one of the better 3-and-D backcourt role players in the league.
Beverley has shot better than or near 40 percent on 3s in six of the past seven seasons, so he immediately steps in as the best catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter on the roster.
Beverley is an underrated playmaker who can handle secondary ballhandling duties, running pick-and-rolls with Los Angeles’ bigs and attacking closeouts when spotting up on the opposite side. He plays within the confines of his skill set. Because he doesn’t need the ball to be effective, Beverley is the type of guard who thrives next to a ball-dominant wing like James. He flourished next to James Harden for a half-decade and then more recently alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Clippers.
Beverley gives the Lakers a much-needed edge, one they thought they’d get from Westbrook last season. He’s a nuisance. He’s an irritant. He’s annoying to play against. The adage “you love him when he’s on your team but hate him when he’s not” applies to Beverley as much as any player in the NBA.
Beverley does all of the little things that contribute to winning. He’s the first to dive on the ground for a loose ball. He’s active on the defensive glass, where he’s one of the better rebounding guards in the league. He also has a knack for sneaking past unsuspecting defenders for timely offensive rebounds. He sets screens and is active off the ball. He’s always doing something. And he has the results to show for it, with his teams making the playoffs in nine of his 10 seasons.
So you’re probably asking “Tim, why is this a concerning trade?”
Because everything I just outlined Beverley as being, is exactly what Alex Caruso provided the Lakers for years. Yes the same Caruso who Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka let walk over a few million dollars. Beverley is a poor mans Caruso.
He turned 34 last month, making him one of the older guards in the league. He has an extensive injury history, missing at least 21 games in four of the past five seasons and only playing more than 70 games once in his career. His antics can be costly. When he’s overhyped, he’ll pick up a foul or technical at an inopportune time. He rarely gets the benefit of the doubt with referees. His leadership style can sometimes rub teammates the wrong way, as it did during the Clippers’ chemistry-lacking 2019-20 season.
Throw in the connection Caruso had with LeBron James and Laker Nation and you really have to sit back and acknowledge that the front office has tampered with a winning formula for too long.
You also traded you’re only valuable asset in THT at his lowest potential value. Yes the same dude you chose to pay INSTEAD of Caruso just a Summer ago. Oh yeah the same guy you refused to part ways with in any trade for Lowry or Harden.
The second glaring concern is the relationship, or pure hatred Beverley and Westbrook have for one another for the past decade. The two have had bad blood since Beverley dove into Westbrook’s knee while Westbrook was calling a timeout in the 2013 playoffs, injuring the then-Thunder star.
Westbrook has publicly called Beverley a fraud who “tricked us” into thinking he is a world class defender. Beverley questioned if Westbrook is a winning player, and even his MVP honors.
The last time they faced each other, Beverley mocked Westbrook multiple times, holding his nose and yelling “he’s trash” at the Lakers’ bench.
Mending those fences, when they were never really standing in steady ground seems impossible. And it becomes an unnecessary burden on the shoulders of first year coach Ham to handle any friction between the starting and back up point guards.
And maybe the most crucial signal is that this trade means the Lakers hopes of landing a massive roster overhaul is cooked.
The only movable pieces, and I use that phrase loosely is their draft picks in 2027 and 2029, along with Westbrook’s expiring contract.
When you consider a team will only take Westbrook if a pick is attached, that leaves just one 1st round pick to land anything of substance. When Rudy Gobert is going for 5 1st rounders, good luck finding anyone valuable for just 1.
Patrick Beverley as a Laker isn’t my issue. Isolate the move and I kind of like it. But attach it to the baggage of weak front office decisions, the Westbrook thing, and his regression makes this a hard move to be excited about.
As of now, Beverley slots in as the team’s backup point guard behind Westbrook. The Lakers could start Beverley over Reaves, but that would leave them smaller in the backcourt. If new coach Darvin Ham holds an open competition, Beverley could push Westbrook for the starting spot. His strengths (3-point shooting and defense) are the two biggest knocks against Westbrook and the exact skills the Lakers need around James and Davis. Beverley’s presence also means Kendrick Nunn and Lonnie Walker IV will likely have to battle for the other backup backcourt spot.
Beverley appeared to send an olive branch on Thursday with a pro-Westbrook quote-tweet of James’ pro-Westbrook tweet.
Same it’s on🦍 https://t.co/jR5ZFaMYMV
— Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) August 25, 2022
But the feud has always stemmed deeper from Westbrook’s side. He’s never forgiven Beverley for the knee injury, and Westbrook doesn’t seem to be the forgive-and-forget type. Beverley, for his part, felt Westbrook’s “Pat Bev trick y’all” comments in 2019 damaged his reputation.
I think its going to take more than a quote tweet to get past these issues.
The one undoubtedly W for the Lakers here has everything to do with next offseason. With the trade the Lakers free up enough money for a max contract in a pretty good class.
The Lakers could have upwards of $30 million to $35 million in cap space available after accounting for cap holds and empty roster charges. The 2023 free agency class could include Kyrie Irving, Khris Middleton, Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Herro, Nikola Vučević, Myles Turner, Jerami Grant and RJ Barrett.
So there’s the hope for brighter days if this project collapse by Christmas Day.
At the very least, can we get a Westbrook and Beverley fight mid game? Is that too much to ask for if you insist on the two being teammates?