The 2023 NBA Trade Deadline is almost upon us, and it is officially time for the Los Angeles Lakers to make a bold move. It is time to put Russell Westbrook on the block, pair him with the team’s two available first-round picks and make a Lakers trade deadline deal that will completely reshape the team. The trade partner here is the Utah Jazz, and the blockbuster is one that will reshape both teams for the better.
The blockbuster Russell Westbrook Lakers trade deadline deal with the Jazz
With the trade deadline now less than a week away on February 9, the Lakers are running out of time to salvage their 2022-23 season. LeBron James and company are 25-28 and in 12th place in the Western Conference.
That’s four spots behind the Jazz, who sit in eighth place with a winning (27-26) record.
Neither of the teams is in the spots they want to be.
The Lakers have LeBron, Anthony Davis, and NBA title aspirations because of them. However, the 2022-23 team simply isn’t that good. They don’t have the players to complement James and Davis or to turn the team into a true contender.
On the Jazz side, Danny Ainge tried to bottom out this season. He traded Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for kings’ ransoms, yet the team he put together is finding a way to win games. Not enough games to truly contend for a title, but enough games to make the play-in tournament at least.
This isn’t ideal for either side. The Lakers can’t be bad because they have no picks, and the Jazz can’t be good because they need as many shots at Victor Wmebanyama as possible to fulfill Ainge’s vision of the future. And no NBA team wants to be stuck in the mediocre middle.
That’s why this Jazz-Lakers trade deadline deal involving Russell Westbrook makes so much sense for both sides. The deal looks like this:
- Jazz get: Russell Westbrook, 2027 first-round pick, 2029 first-round pick
- Lakers get: Mike Conely, Malik Beasley, Kelly Olynyk, and Jarred Vanderbilt
So, why do both Ainge and Rob Pelinka both like this trade?
On the Jazz side, it’s easy. Ainge’s worst nightmare is finishing in the play-in. That gets you nothing in the short term and even less in the long term. By getting rid of the players who play the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth amount of minutes for the team, the Jazz get worse. They also keep Lauri Markkanen, Colin Sexton, and Walker Kessler in the deal, who can be building blocks.
The other reason is that, with the way the Lakers are trending, those 2027 and 2029 picks could have incredible value at the top of the draft. Plus, the $47 million Russell Westbrook expiring contract doesn’t hurt from a future flexibility perspective either.
This Lakers trade makes sense for LA as well. The team needs a lot of things, starting with capable NBA players. This trade gets a lot of value from those two picks. It instantly makes the Lakers a better, deeper team by stocking the roster with proven NBA veterans and a promising youngster in Jarred Vanderbilt.
If the Lakers are truly going to go all in with their last two tradeable draft picks of the decade, they have to get more than one or two players back.
The individual players address several of the Lakers’ primary needs as well. Mike Conely is basically a push with Westbrook as the team’s lead guard. When they are both playing their best, they are pretty comparable players these days. However, Conely makes his contributions with a 16.1% usage rate compared to Westbrook’s 28.6. That’s great for LeBron and AD.
Malik Beasley and Kelly Olynyk are excellent bench pieces/spot starters for the Lakers, as they do a little bit of everything. Olynyk is a jack-of-all-trades big who is having an excellent shooting season, making 49.5% of his shots from the field and 40.6% from 3-point range. Beasley is instant offense off the bench. He’s averaged over 20 points per game in a season before (and 13.6 this season) and is shooting 36.2% from deep on 8.6 attempts per game.
Jarred Vanderbilt is a long, 6-foot-9 forward with good rebounding and defensive skills. He’s also just 23, so from an age and contract perspective he can help the Lakers as a depth piece and as either part of a future rebuild or a trade asset in coming seasons. Vanderbilt is the piece that makes losing the picks a little more palatable.
So, if this is the Lakers trade deadline deal with the Jazz involving Russell Westbrook, who says no?