The Los Angeles Lakers Redeem Themselves at the Trade Deadline

Feb 7, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) watches from the bench in the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the past 24 hours, the Los Angeles Lakers have been transformed from a bottom-feeder team to potential postseason contenders.  General Manager Rob Pelinka pulled off an absolute masterclass of moves yesterday and today, acquiring a plethora of talent who now fit like gloves alongside the star-studded duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

The Los Angeles Lakers Redeem Themselves at the Trade Deadline

The Big One

Yesterday, after over 500 days, the Russell Westbrook experience was extinguished.  LA shipped him, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and a first-round pick to the Utah Jazz as part of a three-team deal.  In return, they reunited with D’Angelo Russell from the Minnesota Timberwolves and also received Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley from Utah.

Breaking it Down

Russell, who the Lakers drafted in 2016, is a major upgrade at the point guard slot. The 26-year-old is averaging nearly 18 points, three rebounds, and six assists per game.  His 39% shooting from downtown is another welcome addition for a squad that is 26th in three-point percentage at 31.1.  The fact that his $31 million contract is expiring this summer is another welcome bonus for a team that desires cap flexibility.

Vanderbilt is a 6’9”, 214-pound wing who thrives in the paint while showing promise as a great defender.  He has averaged 8.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and one steal per game and holds a true shooting percentage of 60.7%.  The 23-year-old fills a dire need for the Lakers as a wing defender who brings size and athleticism on the offensive end.  He has the potential to make an impact in the team’s veteran-laden rotation, and his prowess as a cutter (71% of his field goals are assisted) bodes well for facilitators like James and Russell.

Lastly, Beasley serves as the kind of perimeter threat that a James and Davis-led team must have.  The six-year veteran has averaged 13.4 points per game while shooting 36% from deep this year, akin to his career average of 38% from three.  Defensively, he has put up nearly one steal a game and three games with at least four steals.  Beasley can succeed in any role he has on the Lakers, helping them on both ends with his shooting and swiping.

A Big Man Moves On

The team’s first move of Thursday morning was a head-scratcher, to say the least.  The Lakers traded center Thomas Bryant to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Davon Reed and three second-round picks.  Bryant, who averaged 12 points and nearly seven rebounds this year, reportedly requested a trade after his role was diminished with Davis’s return from injury.  The Lakers were willing to find him a better situation rather than lose him for nothing this summer. It was a classy move that saw them receive draft capital and another player in need of a fresh start.

Reed, a 6’5” guard and three-year veteran, averaged a mere 2.3 points while shooting 36% from deep.  Though it seems like a negligible acquisition, he was playing nine minutes a night behind a crowd of guards on Devner’s roster.  The analytics, however, tell a different story:

Reed does have potential as a plug-and-play option among LA’s multitude of guards.  His perimeter prowess will help them plenty, and his effort on the defensive end will speak volumes.

Upgrade in the Middle

The final trade the Lakers made was an exciting one for their fans.  They acquired Mo Bamba from the Orlando Magic in exchange for Patrick Beverley and second-round picks.  Though they lost one of their best perimeter defenders, the Lakers make up for it by receiving a talented young center with tons of potential.

Bamba has averaged 7.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and one block per game while shooting an impressive 40% from deep this season.  The 24-year-old is an underrated pickup for a team that has struggled with their centers this year–from Davis’s injuries to Bryant’s deficiencies on defense and Damian Jones’s inability to gain consistent minutes.  Now, Bamba gives LA a two-way threat whose athleticism and floor-spacing will do wonders for them.

The Last Word on the Los Angeles Lakers

Overall, the Lakers have turned their season around with these moves.  Each new player appears to fix some problem the team has dealt with for most of the season, whether it was a lack of shooting, size, defense, or all three.  Rob Pelinka and the rest of the front office have worked their magic to turn this team from a disaster to one that could seriously make a run in the playoffs (assuming they get there).

Now, it’s up to those new acquisitions to fit in and help LA win.