Reinforcements are coming for the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. In the wake of striking out on Kyrie Irving and disappointing LeBron James, the Lakers acquired D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in a three-team deal Wednesday, per multiple reports. The Timberwolves will net guards Mike Conley Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the move. The Jazz will receive Russell Westbrook and a 2027 first-round pick from Los Angeles, which is protected from picks 1–4. Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Jones will also head to Utah, while Minnesota also receives three second-round picks. Let’s grade this deal for all sides.
After months of speculation and angst surrounding both Westbrook and their future first-round picks, the Lakers’ initial return is more competent than exciting. On one hand, adding three rotation players to a roster starved for depth at the price of an oft-destructive point guard and a protected first is very good work. On the other hand, the players they’re adding are a mixed bag. Russell is having a fantastic shooting season. At the same time, he’s a minus defender who was benched at times during Minnesota’s most recent playoff run, and his team performed much better with him on the bench this year. (Notably, the Wolves performed better in Anthony Edwards’s solo periods than his minutes with D-Lo.) While Russell and Beasley both address the Lakers’ shooting need, Los Angeles is still bereft of serious options on the wing. Who is supposed to guard the likes of Kawhi Leonard or Luka Doncic in a playoff series? And Russell is not someone you want matched up with Stephen Curry, Jamal Murray or Ja Morant.
Vanderbilt is an energy big, and he may make more sense some nights as a potential backup five over Thomas Bryant. But he can’t play next to LeBron and Anthony Davis together, and if he plays next to one of them, he’s not much of a respected floor spacer.
As someone who has been banging the table for an impact move, I’m most impressed by what the Lakers did not give up in this deal. Los Angeles can still create significant cap space this summer if it doesn’t bring back Beasley and Russell. Getting a protection on the pick was smart. And Rob Pelinka still has one more pick to dangle to get wing help. It’s certainly not a bad move for Los Angeles. Realistically, you couldn’t solve this team’s issues in one trade. This one more so raises the floor than the ceiling.
Russell probably did not have a ton of value around the league, given his defensive reputation and expiring contract. Conley is a serviceable vet who makes sense next to Edwards. He’s played off the ball with a dynamic guard before, he can space the floor, and he’s an upgrade defensively. His contract is partially guaranteed next year, which means the Wolves can move off him in the summer, dangle his expiring next season, or keep him because he’s a solid fit. And maybe Conley can even coax some better play from Rudy Gobert. Considering signing Russell long-term would have been a bad idea, this was a low-risk play for Minnesota.
Utah was probably hoping to snag more firsts in order to take on Westbrook’s contract as well as give up three players who can contribute. Taking back only one first and a protected one at that is a bit surprising. Westbrook will almost certainly be waived. And while the Jazz would have obviously loved more, adding another pick to their trove of first-rounders is ultimately a net gain.