After months of wondering and waiting if the Los Angeles Lakers
would make a deal, the team finally took initiative and struck
before the NBA trade deadline — but they didn’t just make one
The Lakers made four separate trades between Jan. 23
and Feb. 9, switching out nearly half of their roster after
underperforming for the majority of the year. So far, the results
have been quite promising.
Since acquiring D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred
Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, Mo Bamba and Davon Reed, the Lakers are
4-1; most recently, it includes a massive 27-point comeback win
against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. LA now sits at No. 12 in
the Western Conference, but is just one game back of the New
Orleans Pelicans for the final spot in the Play-In
When you look at this retooled version of the Lakers roster, it
looks like a competent, balanced mix that makes sense together.
Despite having two of the best players in the NBA in LeBron James
and Anthony Davis, it’s been a while since this team could say
You have to go back three seasons — all the way to the 2019-20
campaign — to find the last time that happened; ironically, LA won
a championship that year. However, since then, vice president of
basketball operations Rob Pelinka and the Lakers front office have
tried to reshape the roster over and over to try to find the magic
again. Those attempts led to disastrous results; the Russell
Westbrook experiment was perhaps the poorest decision, as LA gave
up its best shooters and significant depth to acquire him.
It appears that, this time around, the Lakers finally learned
their lesson, as Pelinka and Co. executed a full reversal. The
franchise dealt Westbrook for three pieces in Russell, Beasley and
Vanderbilt as part of its revamped "2.0" roster, and it’s just what
the team needed as it makes a push toward the playoffs.
Russell — who is nursing an ankle injury but should be back in
the lineup soon — has shown to have good chemistry with LeBron and
AD so far in what has been a small sample size. He won’t wow anyone
with his numbers, but he’s playing a smart, controlled game by
picking his spots. Russell has a solid feel for when to look for
his own shot and is limiting his turnovers, which are down to just
1.5 per game so far in his second stint with the Lakers.
Beasley is the “laser” that LeBron has been openly hoping for to
help solve the Lakers' shooting problems from three-point range.
Even when he isn’t hitting his shots, teams have to account for him
and his 38% career clip from deep.
Vanderbilt is infectious with his energy and effort, especially
on the defensive end of the floor. He was the tone-setter Sunday
with 15 points, 17 rebounds and 4 steals to spearhead LA's rallying
victory against the Mavericks. (Vando looks to be the steal of the
Hachimura hasn’t blown the doors off since putting on the purple
and gold, but he has added size and another shooting presence that
teams have to deal with, providing more balance and space for the
That quartet of players has breathed a new life into the Lakers
as a whole — particularly with experience.
“Adding those pieces, I think it brings more balance,” Lakers
head coach Darvin Ham recently said. “We have guys in that second
unit that have been in the starting lineup and played starters'
minutes and closed games for us, and had big moments in big games.
So we have confidence in the entire roster. But that’s a great shot
in the arm that we were able to pick up at the trade deadline.”
(Bamba debuted with three blocks for LA and registered a
double-double in his second game with the team as well.)
Maybe most importantly, this Lakers team looks like it’s having
fun. There are smiles and high-fives galore with players rooting
for one another. You can feel the energy shifting following those
There’s still plenty of work to be done. The Lakers have two
more games on an all-so-important road trip. Tuesday night, they'll
play the Memphis Grizzlies and then, they'll take on the Oklahoma
City Thunder on Wednesday in a back-to-back. (Plus, LA won't have
LeBron for an extended period of time due to a foot injury, which
obviously is a huge blow.)
There is no margin for error at this point. The last thing that
LeBron, AD and the new-look Lakers want to do is miss the playoffs
yet again. With that said, all signs are pointing up.
These guys believe in one another. They believe they can win.
And, so far, they’re showing it on the court.
Maybe, just maybe, they finally have the right pieces.
"I've always been confident in any club that I've been on [that]
once we got into the playoffs, that we can compete with anyone, and
I feel no different now," LeBron said. "With the roster, the way
we're shaped up right now, if we can finish off this regular season
on the right foot, then we can compete versus anyone in the Western
Conference, if not the whole league...
"If we can punch our ticket, we can compete versus anyone."