Instant Reaction: Lakers make major roster upgrades in 3-team trade

LeBron James, Lakers (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
LeBron James, Lakers (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

After months of speculation and pressure from superstar LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers have finally made their big trade. The Lakers shipped out Russell Westbrook and their 2027 first-round pick (top-four protected) in a three-team deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz.

The Lakers re-acquired D’Angelo Russell from the Timberwolves, who the team drafted second overall back in 2015. Additionally, they added sharpshooter Malik Beasley and versatile defensive big man Jarred Vanderbilt from the Jazz while sending them their future first-rounder.

The Lakers received a good return in the trade.

The move gives the team two potential starters and a rotation player for the cost of Westbrook and a far-out first. Combined with their earlier trade for Rui Hachimura, Los Angeles has dramatically reshaped their roster on the fly and made it better and deeper. The decision to trade Westbrook appeared to be a foregone conclusion at the start of the season.

His move to the bench, however, resulted in him playing better. That, combined with the cost of a first-round pick or two to offload him, appeared to have caused the Lakers to reconsider moving him. Despite that, Kyrie Irving demanding a trade resulted in them offering the Nets both of their available firsts. Of course, they missed out on landing a superstar and James’ former teammate, much to his chagrin.

The timing of the trade is interesting. Not only did James break the NBA’s all-time scoring record less than 24 hours ago, but Westbrook and head coach Darvin Ham got into an argument, and he looked checked out at different points of the Lakers’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Now that the Westbrook era is over, James and the Lakers have 27 games remaining to turn their disappointing season around. They are currently 13th in the Western Conference (at the time of writing), but are only four games out of sixth place given how packed the standings are at the moment.

Fortunately, these three additions should help them make up ground. Russell, in particular, considering he has played much better in 2023, and he and Beasley should help the team improve their 3-point shooting, which is 26th-ranked.

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Overall, the Lakers made a big move that should help them improve, over the final third of the season. However, the biggest question is whether the team can gel quickly enough for them to make the playoffs.