Lakers trade Russell Westbrook for D’Angelo Russell, others

The Los Angeles Lakers are trading Russell Westbrook.

The Los Angeles Lakers are trading Russell Westbrook.
Image: beautiful pictures

Take a look at the Los Angeles Lakers. After years of eliminating rotating players and first-round draft picks like donut crumbs, they’ve finally made some moves toward building an official NBA roster. On Wednesday, they finally lifted Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract and in return received Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and their 2015 No. 2 overall draft pick D’Angelo Russell.

It was a group of three people dealing with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz. The Timberwolves have Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker back. Jazz got Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and the Lakers’ the top 4 are protected in the first round in 2027 pick.

Bow, Danny Ainge

First and foremost, a round of applause for tank legend Danny Ainge. The Jazz started the season with a surprising margin of victory and seeded third in mid-November.. Since then, they have gradually slipped up the rankings down to the last play-in rock position. This year was supposed to be the year of the Jazz’s reconstruction, and Ainge waited a considerable amount of time before turning off the lights in 2022-23. With the Western Conference so messy, Utah was a good chance to make it into the top five for picks overall and Victor Wembanyama.

This is the lineup the Lakers need

The Lakers, if they start this season with the current roster, will be a shoo-in for the post-season. The ideal starting line-up for them would be LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Thomas Bryant, D’Angelo Russell and bring Lonnie Walker IV back to the starting line-up.

Russell has played the best basketball of his career this season averaging 17.9 points per game on 46.5/39.1/85.6 shooting splits and keeping his turnovers down. A second ball handler in the lineup and more importantly, a shooter opposing defenses have to respect.

A team that had no depth three weeks ago now has options on the bench for Darvin Ham to actually be excited about deploying. When the defense needs a shot of life the Lakers can substitute Vanderbilt in at power forward or a small-ball center. He is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. Improved defense was a major difference in the 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, they can go to Austin Reaves — who has been dependable 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 knockdown shooter from long range can still score points and provide some always-necessary size.

Veteran presence

Don’t forget about the grizzled veteran guards off of 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 target he can make a big one when necessary. At least one player every night from this roster should be able to make a consistent jump shot every night.

What the Lakers put alongside James and Davis to start this season was a lot of inexperience, along with a star player making $47.1 million but not capable of production commensurate with his percentage of the salary cap. With this trade, the Lakers got younger and still added players who have been key contributors on postseason teams.

For every team in the west that is not the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and eventually the Jazz, the postseason is very much within reach. The Lakers found a way to make themselves more viable for one of those spots, without mortgaging a significant portion of their future to do so.

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