Lakers (Finally) Trade Russell Westbrook
With a familiar face returning to La La Land
After 559 days, it happened. The Lakers have moved on from the Russell Westbrook experience in a major way.
While the Wolves receive a solid veteran guard in Conley and future draft capital, and the Jazz add to their stockpile of assets, the Lakers and Westbrook are arguably the biggest winners from this move.
What the Trade Means for Russell Westbrook
In two seasons donning the purple and gold that saw Westbrook go from hated to loved and everything in between, the 33-year old finally gets a fresh start. Russ has averaged 17.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game while shooting 43% from the field, nearly 30% from deep and 66% from the free-throw line. Despite newfound success as LA’s sixth man, some of his performances and the plethora of mental mistakes drew ire from the Laker faithful. Additionally, there were moments where fans knew he didn’t fit in with the rest of the team, whether it was his negative attitude towards being benched late in games or his “just have fun” mentality despite LA’s losing spells.
With the likelihood that Utah buys him out, Russ will be free to have a fresh start towards the end of his career — one that, after the past season and a half, is very much needed.
What the Trade Means for the Lakers
The Lakers appear to have saved themselves from their own undoing two seasons prior. Reuniting with D’Angelo Russell, who the team drafted in 2015, was an unexpected yet welcome opportunity. This season with Minnesota, the 26-year-old averaged nearly 18 points, three rebounds and 6.2 assists per game while shooting 46.5% from the field, 39% from deep and 85.6% from the stripe. Russell’s facilitating and three-point shooting are two areas the Lakers have certainly missed this year, and he will be able to plug some holes in those departments.
Additionally, his expiring $31 million will allow for some cap flexibility this summer.
Besides Russell, the Lakers also acquired Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley from the Utah Jazz — role players who have a chance to make an immediate impact.
Vanderbilt, a 23-year-old forward/center, is averaging nearly nine points and seven rebounds a game this year on 55–33–65 splits. A versatile player at 6'9" and 214 pounds, Vanderbilt has exceled at scoring in the paint (71% of his field goals are assisted) while holding his own defensively. His ability to make an impact near the basket while fulfilling the role of a wing defender will be essential for the Lakers, who have lacked another reliable big man and someone who can guard opposing frontcourt players.
Finally, there’s Beasley, a six-year NBA veteran who is the kind of three-point marksman Lakers fans have been clamoring for. The 26-year-old has put up 13.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG and 1.7 APG on 40–36–84 splits this year. He has been a perimeter threat throughout his career, making 38% of his shots from beyond the arc. He also has a decent track record on defense, averaging nearly a steal per game this season and holding a defensive rating of 117.7.
Darius Soriano, co-host of the Laker Film Room Podcast and a contributor to the Lakers’ team site, pointed out that Beasley and Russell could help reshape LA’s offense immediately:
Overall, the Lakers received a great return for Westbrook in my eyes. A pass-first point guard who can shoot the three ball exceptionally well, a 3-and-D veteran who can impact the team in whatever role he’s put in, and a young forward who can thrive on both ends of the floor all hold a massive amount of promise for a team that has been looking for moves that turn them into contenders. Does this trade automatically catapult them into the postseason? Not right now, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the Lakers.
Well done, Rob Pelinka, well done *tips cap*.