The posturing is over, as is Russell Westbrook’s time in Los Angeles. The Lakers have reportedly agreed to trade Russ and a protected first-round pick to the Utah Jazz for D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in a three-team deal that will also see the Minnesota Timberwolves get Mike Conley according to multiple reports.
Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson are also on the way out for the Lakers, so the team will still have one open 15th roster spot for a potential uneven trade before tomorrow’s NBA trade deadline, or the buyout market afterward:
Lakers, Jazz and Timberwolves are finalizing trade sending D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook and first-round pick to Utah and Mike Conley Jr. and second-round pick compensation to Minnesota, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 9, 2023
Also in deal: Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones to Jazz, Nickeil Alexander-Walker to the Timberwolves, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
DLo’s return is an improbable one for the Lakers, as he was not a player that was linked to the team prior to Wednesday’s deal. Purely from a fit perspective, it’s a night and day difference between his fit and Westbrook’s thanks to D’Lo’s shooting ability. Adding in Beasley and Vanderbilt, the former another great 3-point shooter and the latter a wing player that can improve the team’s rebounding and size.
The draft compensation for the deal is also rather favorable to the Lakers. The first round pick in 2027 is top-4 protected and one of the second round picks going to Minnesota — the lesser of Washington and Memphis’ picks in 2024 — also belonged to the Lakers. Importantly, the 2027 first round pick, if not conveyed, immediately becomes a 2027 second round pick, meaning the Lakers can still trade their 2029 first round pick as well.
The Lakers' 2027 first-round pick to the Jazz is protected 1-to-4, source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
Minnesota gets 2024 lesser of Washington-Memphis second round pick and 2025 and 2026 second-round picks via Utah, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
An important note here: If not conveyed in 2027 -- i.e. if it falls into the top-4 -- the pick immediately converts to a 2027 2nd round pick, sources say. No other future Lakers first-round picks encumbered. https://t.co/I5CBwnTY05— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 9, 2023
Ultimately, the Lakers turned Westbrook, two players out of the rotation, a protected first-round pick and a second-round pick into Russell, Beasley and Vanderbilt, three rotation players. Again, for all the valid criticism vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka has taken, this is a big win for the Lakers.
Russell’s playstyle and fit is pretty well-known among Lakers fans. He’s a scoring point guard that should fit very nicely alongside LeBron James. Beasley, meanwhile, has long been one of the better 3-point shooters in the league. He’s a career 38% shooter from range and while he’s in the middle of his worst shooting season since 2017-18, he shot over 38% on catch-and-shoot attempts last year, 41.2% on wide-open 3-pointers and 39.3% on open 3-pointers, all as classified by NBA stats.
Vanderbilt further addresses the team’s need on the wing as a rangy forward that is a strong defender. In lineups alongside Davis, the Lakers will have a very stout defensive front court. He’s not much of a 3-point threat, having only attempted 78 career 3-pointers with 57 of those coming this year, but he does rank in the 90th percentile among bigs in long mid-range jumpers, according to Cleaning The Glass, and has a rebound percentage (17.9%) that would rank second to only AD on the Lakers.
There is never an easy way to segue into this, but it still has to be mentioned regarding Beasley: He pled guilty in 2021 to threatening a family with a rifle after they stopped their car in front of his home. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail and three years of probation during which he cannot possess a firearm. This story from Reuters has the full details.
All season (and offseason) long, there have been rumors that made it appear it was always more a matter of “if” than “when” this disappointing Big 3 of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook was broken up. Early reports circled on Charlotte or Indiana as likely dumping grounds for Russ until Kyrie Irving jumped into the center of the conversation. The Lakers circled Kyrie and the Nets for more than a month in the heart of the offseason — and then again closer to the trade deadline — but ultimately nothing of it, much to LeBron James’ chagrin.
Things appeared to reach a boiling point in the last few days. During the team’s game against the Thunder less than 48 hours before the trade deadline, Russ feuded with both Phil Handy and Darvin Ham, some of it publicly, some of it privately. It had the feeling of the final act of a defiant Westbrook, who seemed to have a pretty good idea of what his fate would be.
But this is cutting bait on a truly, truly awful experiment. The Lakers sacrificed their depth for an aging, stubborn star, watched him continue to be stubborn while losing the battle with Father Time, all without the self-awareness of what was happening and then were forced to attach assets just to try and fix their previous mistakes.
Even if you channeled your inner Dr. Strange and replayed this era in 1000 alternate timelines across the multiverse, it’s hard to imagine this scenario playing out worse than it did in this one. The good news is that the Lakers have moved on from Russ and now can attempt to move back into the playoffs with a team that is better than it was yesterday. The bad news is they are worse off after Russ than they were before Russ, and wasted a year and a half of LeBron’s remaining good years and multiple first-round picks in doing so.
Still, the Lakers can’t go back in time and change the past. And the future is a little more positive after this deal. After the last few wins, we have to take the wins where we can get them.