For a team that’s currently the 13th seed in the Western Conference and losers of their last 3 games, there’s plenty of excitement to be had surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s because now, after the NBA trade deadline, there is reason to believe the 25-31 team can now go on a run to end the season, with that run hopefully starting in Saturday’s game vs. the Golden State Warriors. when D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and maybe even Davon Reed are set to make their debuts.
Let’s preview the matchup.
That brewing excitement is due to the Lakers roster that Rob Pelinka overhauled this week at the 2023 NBA trade deadline. The Lakers shipped out Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and draft compensation. In return, they brought in Russell, Vanderbilt, Beasley, Reed, Mo Bamba and some second round draft compensation.
Unfortunately, all of the players listed above were not able to play with the Lakers in their first game following the trade deadline. That was Thursday’s 115-106 loss vs. the Bucks, in a game during which the Lakers were also missing LeBron James.
But don’t fret. Reinforcements are here. And if everything goes right, they’ll not only be here to help the Lakers go on a run to end the season, but also to keep building in the summer for another run in the 2023-24 season.
Of course, the Lakers franchise isn’t about wins later. They’re about wins now. And although these trades for younger and (theoretically) better players bring plenty of promise for the future, they also bring plenty of promise for the present.
Russell will be coming in to replace Russell… Westbrook that is. And although D’Lo doesn’t have a former MVP award or multiple All-NBA selections to his name, he certainly is a far better shooter than Westbrook. That poor shooting from Russ plagued the Lakers more often than not in his near-two seasons with the team, and although D’Lo brings his own warts that honestly compare favorably to Westbrook’s other pitfalls at times, his shooting is nothing to worry about given his current 39.1% and career 36.0% 3-point percentages.
When the trade was made official, Rob Pelinka noted in the press release that the Lakers had added “switchable wing defending, perimeter shooting and rebounding depth.” D’Lo is really only bringing the perimeter shooting, with the 6’9 (7’1 wingspan) Vanderbilt bringing the rebounding and switchability, while the team gets a bit of a flame-thrower in Beasley.
The Lakers acquired one of the NBA's best off-screen shooters in Malik Beasley— Cranjis McBasketball (@Tim_NBA) February 9, 2023
Only Klay and Bojan have scored more off-screen points than him this season.
He's also shot 42% on pull-up P&R 3s this season (his 3rd most frequent half court usage) https://t.co/gVxBksSt2C
Lakers would need to go 18-8 to end the season to have the same winning percentage as the currently 6th seeded Phoenix Suns— Donny McH3nry (@donny_mchenry) February 10, 2023
That aligns with Schroder’s recently stated goal for the team, and that absolutely should be their North Star: Avoiding the play in
With Stephen Curry out, the new-look Lakers will hopefully be able to get off to a fast start. As evidenced above, there is now no room for error for a team that will now have half of its rotation completely unfamiliar with the rest of the team. There’s going to be some understandable clunkiness going on between them, but hopefully the new guys also bring a breath of fresh air to a locker room that sounded like it was in desperate need of a change of pace.
If that freshness overrides the unfamiliarity between teammates, then maybe we’ll look back and remember Saturday night as the start of a reborn Lakers team.
Notes and Updates
- We won’t be seeing the debut of Mo Bamba on Saturday. He’s out after a fight between the Magic and the Timberwolves on Feb. 2 resulted in him being suspended four games. According to his game log on Basketball Reference, this will be his fourth and final game suspended, so he should be allowed to suit up on Monday.
- LeBron James (left ankle soreness) will be questionable. He’s been listed as questionable before games for a while now, however, it should be noted that he sat out the preceding game against the Bucks due to the soreness.
- Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) is probable.
- Scotty Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider (G-League play) are out.
- At this time, the Warriors have not submitted their injury report. They will certainly be without Stephen Curry (left leg injury) as he has already been ruled out until at least after the All-Star break. They’ll also be without the newly re-acquired Gary Payton II, and may be without him indefinitely after a failed physical has possibly ruined the trade that brought him back to Golden State.
The Lakers and Warriors will tip off at 5:30 p.m. PT. The game will be exclusively shown on ABC.
You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.