After weeks of stillness on the NBA free agency and trading front, due largely to Kevin Durant’s trade request and eventual decision to remain a Net, the Lakers and Jazz finally broke the silence.
Late Tuesday night, the two sides agreed to a deal to send 34-year-old Patrick Beverley to the Lakers in exchange for 21-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker and 26-year-old Stanley Johnson.
The trade was a clear sign of the direction each of the franchises is headed in — the Lakers, trying to cling onto relevancy in the waning years of the LeBron James era; and the Jazz, diving headfirst into a full-on rebuild.
While the pieces the Jazz got back are intriguing — maybe Horton-Tucker can excel outside of the bright lights of Los Angeles — the Lakers, in their quest to put together a winning team in LeBron’s age-37/38 season, are the more interesting team to delve into.
So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
On paper, Beverley definitely makes the Lakers better. He’s an above-average perimeter defender who brings nonstop energy on both ends of the floor, something the Lakers clearly lacked last season. The Lakers emphasized youth this offseason in an effort to have more energy on the defensive side of the ball, and Beverley will only add to that despite his age.
Beverley is also an underrated shooter from behind the arc — a career 37.8 percent shooter from three in his 10 seasons.
And maybe the most impressive thing the Lakers did in this trade is hanging onto both of their tradable first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. That’ll give them the flexibility to make another move. Say, fix the one glaring issue still left on this roster.
Beverley is not at all a good fit next to Russell Westbrook from a basketball perspective — and they’ve had their fair share of feuding together outside of the game, too. It’s hard to imagine a backcourt of Westbrook and Beverley working in harmony.
So that has to lead us to believe the Lakers are just getting started. Or at least, have one more move in them — the move Laker fans have been waiting for since the beginning of the offseason.
The Lakers have to be close to a move revolving around Westbrook. Maybe it’s with the Hornets for Gordon Hayward. Maybe it’s with the Pacers for Buddy Hield (and also Myles Turner?). Or maybe it’s with a sleeper team like the Knicks or Thunder.
Whatever the case, you have to imagine the Lakers have at least one more move in them — a move that could actually push them into contention in the crowded western conference.
A lineup of Beverley, Hield, James, Davis, and Turner definitely feels like the best-case scenario, even if it meant trading both of their first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. Fully healthy, that team could put up a serious fight for an NBA title.
A trade for just Hield still makes this team a more serious contender, with Thomas Bryant sliding into the starting center role. And it wouldn’t cost more than one first-round pick at most.
Hayward, despite his albatross of a contract, would also be a good win-now fit in the lineup. The Lakers do have options.
Any of those lineups paired with the Lakers’ young bench of Lonnie Walker IV, the aforementioned Thomas Bryant, Kendrick Nunn, Austin Reaves, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, Troy Brown Jr., and Max Christie is definitely an upgrade over last season. And maybe they will go big and utilize those first-round picks.
The Lakers were reportedly becoming more willing to include both first-rounders in a trade for Kyrie Irving. While that is unlikely to happen now that all seems well in Brooklyn (for now), you still have to imagine the Lakers would be willing to move those picks if it meant contending for a championship during the next two years of LeBron’s recently signed contract extension.
The Lakers’ move for Beverley was a great start. Moving Russell Westbrook could turn this team into a serious contender. So let’s see what else Rob Pelinka has up his sleeve.
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