Lakers trade Russell Westbrook for D’Angelo Russell, others

Los Angeles Lakers trade Russell Westbrook.

Los Angeles Lakers trade Russell Westbrook.
Picture: Getty Images

Look at the Los Angeles Lakers. After years of shedding rotation players and first-round draft picks like donut crumbs, they’ve finally taken some steps toward building a full-fledged NBA roster. On Wednesday, they finally released Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract and in return received Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and their second overall pick in the 2015 draft, D’Angelo Russell.

It was a triple team dealing with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz. The Timberwolves brought back Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The Jazz received Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and the Lakers first four protected 2027 first round select.

Take a bow, Danny Ainge

First and foremost, a big round of applause to tanking legend Danny Ainge. The Jazz started the season by surprisingly pulling off small wins and peaking as the No. 3 seed in mid-November. Since then, they have gradually slipped down the standings to the last play-in spot. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Jazz, and Ainge waited a respectable amount of time before turning the lights out in 2022-23. With the Western Conference so messed up, Utah is a good chance to break into the top five odds for a try for the first overall pick and Victor Wembanyama.

This is the lineup that the Lakers needed

The Lakers, if they started this season with the current lineup, he would be a shoo-in for the postseason. The ideal starting lineup for them would be LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Thomas Bryant, D’Angelo Russell, and Lonnie Walker IV back in the starting lineup.

Russell played the best basketball of his career this season, averaging 17.9 points per game on 46.5/39.1/85.6 shooting and holding a streak of turnovers. The second ball handler in the lineup and more importantly, the shooter of the opposing defense must be respected.

AND a team that lacked depth three weeks ago now there are options on the bench for Darvin Ham to actually get excited about deploying. When the defense needs a shot at life, the Lakers can replace Vanderbilt at power forward or small-ball center. He is 6-foot-9 with a wingspan of 7 feet and 1. Improved defense was the big difference in Timberwolves success last season, and Vanderbilt was a significant part of that. He was second on the team in both defensive box plus/minus and defensive win shares.

For some offensive juice that can still play competent defense, I can go to Austin Reaves — who has been reliable with the ball in his hands all season as well as an improved shooter — and Beasley’s 39.1 percent from the 3-point line. The Lakers also traded for Rui Hachimura, who, while far from a long-range shooter, can still score points and provide some always-needed size.

The presence of veterans

Don’t forget the miserable veterans from the bench either. What Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schröder lack in size, they make up for in experience and toughness. Schröder can still dribble around almost anyone in the league, and when Beverley’s shot is on goal, he can make a big shot needed. At least one player every night from this list should be able to make a consistent jump shot every night.

What the Lakers put alongside James and Davis early this season was a lot of inexperience, along with a star who makes $47.1 million but isn’t capable of producing commensurate with his salary percentage. With this trade, the Lakers rejuvenated and added players who made key contributions to the teams postseason.

For every team in the West other than the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and eventually the Jazz, the postseason is very close. The Lakers have found a way to become more capable of filling one of those spots without mortgaging a significant portion of their future.

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