Lakers Timberwolves Jazz Trade Analysis

Lakers Timberwolves Jazz Trade Analysis

The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t get Kyrie Irving. Instead, the Lakers filled out three rotation spots in a single trade. The deal involves the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz, and features eight players, a protected first-round pick and three second-round picks.

Here are the details:

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers searched for months for a taker in a deal involving Russell Westbrook. There were reports that they got close to a trade with the Utah Jazz before the season. Early-season rumors featured talks of a deal with the Indiana Pacers. This past week had the Lakers linked to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyrie Irving.

In the end, Los Angeles turned Westbrook and one of their two tradable first-round picks into a likely starting point guard, top reserve wing and top reserve big. And the Lakers sacrificed precious little flexibility beyond this season to do so.

If the Lakers wanted to go the 2023 cap space route, they can still create around $30 million in space. But that plan is probably out the window, as Los Angeles has rebuilt their depth with two pre-deadline deals. Malik Beasley and the previously acquired Rui Hachimura are long-term keepers. Jarred Vanderbilt should be too. We’ll see what happens with D’Angelo Russell, but he’s got a great chance to stick around too. Keep an eye on a potential two-year extension for Russell with the Lakers, worth up to $67.5 million.

Russell returns back to his first NBA home, but he’s a different player this time around. Russell is a confident shooter and scorer and a far better playmaker than when he left Los Angeles six years ago. He should eventually supplant Dennis Schroder in the Lakers starting lineup. That will give the Lakers a better shooter and a better secondary playmaker alongside LeBron James.

Beasley comes in as a pure sniper off the bench. He’s already knocked down 169 three-pointers this season. That’s almost twice as many as any current Laker. There’s some overlap with Beasley and Lonnie Walker IV, but they should be able to play some minutes together. Beasley does the vast majority of his work around the arc, while Walker likes to get into the midrange areas and into the paint.

In Vanderbilt, the Lakers get the third big they’ve been looking for all season. He’ll likely come off the bench, but it’s a good bet Vanderbilt will play plenty with James and Anthony Davis in bigger frontcourt alignments. Provided he plays enough, Vanderbilt should improve on LA’s middle-of-the-pack rebounding, while giving them some solid finishing and good passing from either big position.

By adding Russell, Beasley and Vanderbilt, along with Hachimura a couple of weeks ago, the Lakers have achieved the roster balance they’ve lacked the last two seasons. They’re probably still a little guard-heavy, but not like they were before. Darvin Ham can play a lot of different ways now, and that’s not something he could do before these trades. In addition, there should be enough depth to allow James and Davis to get the rest they need in games, and possibly even a full day off, if necessary.

Rob Pelinka increased the Lakers tax bill by a minimal amount in these two deals. Pelinka did a great job to get a top-4 protection on the 2027 first-round pick he’s sending to Utah. Reports are that if the Lakers somehow keep that pick, it converts into an immediate second-round pick. That allows the Lakers to still trade the 2029 pick if they find another deal they like down the line.

These moves don’t make the Lakers into immediate title contenders. That very much remains a stretch goal. But Los Angeles is now positioned to make a real run in the Play-In Tournament. If they can get to the playoffs, no top seed is going to want the “reward” of a seven-game series with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a team with rebuilt depth.

We’ve been waiting for the Lakers to make that all-in push. Even if it doesn’t work out perfectly, you can’t say they didn’t try. And that’s worth something all by itself.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves portion of this trade is probably the most confusing. But if you dig a little deeper, this was a trade about stability and handing even more of the reins to Anthony Edwards.

Mike Conley isn’t as good as D’Angelo Russell, but he’s cheaper. Especially when you factor in that Russell needs a new contract after the season. More importantly, Conley helps as a culture-setter for a locker room that lost some of that when they traded away Patrick Beverley.

Conley will get the Wolves into their sets, and then he’ll happily float off-ball, while Edwards, and eventually Karl-Anthony Towns, pile up the usage. When Edwards sits, Chris Finch can go to the Conley-Rudy Gobert pick-and-roll sets that Quin Snyder used with regularity in Utah.

It’s likely Minnesota will end up keeping Conley next season and fully guaranteeing his deal for $24.4 million (it’s already guaranteed for $14.3 million). Then, when Town’s four-year, $224 million extension and Edwards’ likely five-year max deal kick in with the start of the 2024-25 season, Conley will be off the books.

The Timberwolves have played better in recent weeks. They’re above .500 now and still in range of getting into the top-6 in the Western Conference, if not making a run at homecourt advantage. This trade should help keep them stable when Towns returns. Before this trade, working Towns back into the lineup, with Edwards and Russell being the primary guys, could have been very messy. Conley will help make sure that’s an easy transition, by keeping Edwards the main focus, while making sure the big men get to eat too.

Utah Jazz

It took months longer than expected, but the Jazz have finally turned towards rebuilding. A far better-than-expected start had everyone questioning if Utah would even go down this road. But Danny Ainge isn’t one for half measures. Once he has a direction, he’s going to keep it.

The Jazz have extreme flexibility moving forward. They can create over $60 million in cap space this coming offseason. And they’ve added 15 additional draft picks through 2029 over the series of trades dating back to last summer. And that’s all while having new franchise cornerstones Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, Ochai Agbaji, and maybe Collin Sexton, all signed to long-term deals.

Russell Westbrook is already reportedly working on a buyout agreement. Damian Jones is unlikely to have any sort of future with Utah either. Juan Toscano-Anderson is a nice flyer for a team that is trying to build a new culture. He should fit in nicely with the “go to work” style that Will Hardy is stressing with his young team.

It’s important to note that Ainge might not be done yet, either. Jordan Clarkson could still be traded. Or he could be extended. That’s a pretty fluid situation. Kelly Olynyk could fetch a minor asset or two. And if anyone is interested in picking up Rudy Gay or Talen Horton-Tucker, that would remove their player options from the mix for next season, and only increase Utah’s cap space potential.

The Jazz have already won far too many games to catch the Rockets, Spurs, Pistons or Hornets. But falling down the fifth-best NBA Draft Lottery odds is well within range. A high pick this year, solid talent in place on the roster, a great young coach, tons of cap space and a million extra draft picks. We’ve seen this movie before. And it ends with Danny Ainge building a multi-year title contender.