Winners, losers from three-team Lakers trade of Russell Westbrook


The Lakers had been trying for a year to find a new home for Russell Westbrook, who was always the square-peg third star who never fit in next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis (something seemingly everyone but the Lakers front office thought was obvious back before they ever traded for Russ). However, the anchor of Westbrook’s $47.1 million contract was too much for teams, at least considering the draft pick compensation the Lakers were willing to send out as a sweetener.

That dynamic changed with less than half a season left on Westbrook’s deal (a little over $16 million remaining for a team to pay out), and Danny Ainge jumped in. The Lakers and Jazz roped in a Timberwolves team needing a shakeup to make it a three-way deal that alters the landscape in the Western Conference. Let’s look at the winners and losers from this move, starting with a breakdown of exactly what the deal looks like.

Lakers receive: D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt.
Timberwolves receive: Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, second-round picks in 2024, 2025 and 2026
Jazz receive: Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, Lakers 2027 first-round pick (1-4 protected)

WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are trying something radical: Put shooting around LeBron James.

The Lakers got better in this trade, although they may want to manage expectations. These Lakers are not the contenders their fans (and some inside their building) might hope — it’s a long way from the 13-seed to a title threat, especially in a conference that just added Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to teams that were already better than the Lakers. But Los Angeles does improve. If LeBron and Davis are healthy, nobody wants to see this team in the playoffs. A team with a puncher’s chance in any series. That’s worth sacrificing one of their future first-round picks to get there.

The Lakers get an upgrade at the point guard spot. This isn’t simple addition by subtraction, Westbrook had been solid in the sixth-man role, but the Lakers added needed shooting. D’Angelo Russell is knocking down 39.1% of his attempts from 3 this season and has hit about that same percentage on catch-and-shoot opportunities. That said, while his raw numbers look good, Russell has not passed the eye test this season, he has disrupted the Minnesota offense chasing stats in a contract year. Here’s the bottom line – the Timberwolves were 5.4 points per 100 possessions worse this season when Russell was on the court. Minnesota got outscored when he played but outscored their opponents when he sat. He’s a negative defender, which team will attack.

The hope for the Lakers has come in recent weeks when the Timberwolves (wisely) started to put their offense in the hands of Anthony Edwards. Russell showed he could work in an off-the-ball role, something not natural to a shoot-first guard, but something he will have to do next to LeBron. Russell’s contract expires after this season, so he doesn’t eat into the Lakers’ cap space this summer if they want to go big game hunting (or, with about $31 million in space, that’s more medium game hunting in today’s market).

The win for the Lakers in this trade isn’t primarily about the point guard spot, it’s about quality depth. The Lakers land a coveted shooter in Beasley (14.1 points per game this season, career 38% from 3) who fills a floor-spacing need. They also get a versatile, switchable, quality defender and rebounder in Vanderbilt who can play the four next to Anthony Davis, or some backup five while he rests.

WINNER: Minnesota Timberwolves

Mike Conley is a better fit for this team, a pass-first point guard and quality floor general. Conley can set up Anthony Edwards, Rudy Gobert, and (once he gets healthy) Karl-Anthony Towns, getting them the rock in good spots on the floor, and is not looking for his own shot (ala Russell). He may not hunt shots but he can make them when asked. He is not the plus defender he once was, but he’s an upgrade over Russell on that end of the floor.

Conley is expensive, with $24.4 million guaranteed next season, but he’s an upgrade, and the Timberwolves also got some second-round picks. It’s worth the risk for a team trying to figure out an identity.

LOSER: Utah Jazz

This is not about Westbrook, he will be bought out and never set foot in Salt Lake City. Considering his run-ins with fans there in the past, this is a good thing for everyone.

I don’t hate this trade for the Jazz, a pivot to rebuilding was coming, even if it seemed in contrast with the team’s fast start this season. This was the kind of trade most of us expected from the Jazz all season.

What you think of this trade from Utah’s perspective depends on what you think of the first-round pick the Lakers send to Utah, a top-four protected 2027 first-rounder. That is a valuable pick, and it lands after LeBron has retired (probably, it looks like he could play forever). For my money, the Jazz could have done a little better, either remove the protections on that pick (if it doesn’t convey in 2027 it becomes a second-rounder that season), or maybe one of those other second-rounders the Jazz landed. After the hauls that Danny Ainge got for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, this felt a little flat. But it’s not terrible.

ASK AGAIN LATER: Russell Westbrook

It’s too early to write the last chapters of the Westbrook saga. He is about to be a free agent and the market for his services — and what he perceives the market for his services will be — is going to be fascinating.

If he is under the impression teams are lining up to bring him in as a core scoring option, a top-three player on their roster, he is in for a rude awakening (I don’t think he believes that). If he is willing to accept the sixth-man playmaking role he filled with the Lakers — and take less money than he thinks he deserves — then there are good fits around the league. How this trade works out for him depends upon where he lands. The Clippers and Bulls are known to be interested in his services, they are likely not alone.

WINNERS: Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley

They have gone from quality role players in a small market outside the spotlight to bigger roles in a much brighter spotlight in Los Angeles. They are winners because this is an opportunity — a long history of guys have played their way into bigger contracts by meshing with LeBron James or standing out in Los Angeles (or both, hello Alex Caruso). What comes next for this duo is a huge opportunity that could take their careers to the next level. Will they grab it?

Damian Lillard says Trail Blazers shut him down, talks loyalty to Portland


Players feel the wrath of fans for load management in the NBA, but more often than not it’s a team’s medical and training staff — driven by analytics and the use of wearable sensors — that sit a player. Guys don’t get to the NBA not wanting to compete.

Case in point, Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers have shut him down for the rest of the season, but he told Dan Patrick on the Dan Patrick Show that it was a team call, not his.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my decision at all. I think maybe the team protecting me from myself… Every time that I’ve had some type injury like that kind of get irritated or aggravated or something like that, it’s come from just like a heavy load, and stress, and just, you know, going out there and trying to go above and beyond. So, you know, I would say just; there is something there, and also them just trying to protect me from myself as well.”

Maybe it’s a little about protecting Lillard at age 32 — who played at an All-NBA level this season — but it’s more about lottery odds.

Portland and Orlando are tied for the league’s fifth and sixth-worst records. The team with the fifth worst record has a 10.5% chance at the No.1 pick, the sixth worst is 9%. More than that, the fifth-worst record has a 42% chance of moving up into the top four at the draft lottery, for the sixth seed that is 37.2%. Not a huge bump in the odds, but the chances are still better for the fifth seed than the sixth, so the Trail Blazers as an organization are going for it.

Lillard also talked about his loyalty to Portland, which is partly tied to how he wants to win a ring — the way Dirk Nowitzki and Giannis Antetokounmpo did, with the team and city that drafted them.

“I just have a way that I want to get things done for myself… I just have my stance on what I want to see happen, but in this business, you just never know.”

Other teams are watching Lillard, but they have seen this movie before. Nothing will happen until Lillard asks for a trade and he has yet to show any inclination to do so.

But he’s got time to think about everything as he is not taking the court again this season.

Seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge officially retires

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

LaMarcus Aldridge retired once due to a heart condition (Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome), back in 2021. That time it didn’t take, he came back to the then-a-super-team Nets and showed there was something in the tank averaging 12.9 points (on 55% shooting), 5.5 rebounds and a block a game. However, the Nets did not bring him back this season (leaning into Nic Claxton) and no other offers were forthcoming.

Friday, Aldridge made it official and retired.

Aldridge had a career that will earn him Hall of Fame consideration: 19.1 points a game over 16 seasons, five-time All-NBA, seven-time All-Star, and one of the faces of the Portland Trail Blazers during his prime years in the Pacific Northwest. Teammates and former coaches (including Gregg Popovich in San Antonio) called him a consummate professional after his initial retirement.

This time Aldridge got to announce his retirement on his terms, which is about as good an exit as there is.



Report: NBA minimum draft age will not change in new CBA, one-and-done remains


While the NBA — representing the owners — and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) continue last-minute negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) before an opt-out deadline Friday night at midnight, one point of contention is off the table:

The NBA draft age will not change in the new CBA, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The NBA one-and-done rule will remain in place.

The NBA one-and-done rule is unpopular with fans and college coaches (and, of course, players coming up). NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had worked to eliminate that restriction saying it was unfair, but he could not get it done.

There wasn’t much motivation from either side to make a move. From the players’ union perspective, lowering the draft eligibility age to 18 would bring more young players in to develop in the league and take away roster spots from veterans (and the union is made up of those veterans, not undrafted players). The union has suggested ways to keep veterans on the roster (possibly a roster expansion) as mentors, but a deal could not be reached. As for the teams, plenty of GMs would prefer an extra year to evaluate players, especially with them going up against better competition in college/G-League/Overtime Elite/overseas.

There are other impediments to a CBA deal, such as the details around a mid-season NBA tournament, the configuration of the luxury tax, veteran contract extension language, a games-played minimum to qualify for the league’s end-of-season awards.

If the sides do not reach a deal by midnight, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would likely opt out of the current CBA, meaning it would end on June 30. The two sides would have until then to reach a deal on a new CBA to avoid a lockout (although they could go into September before it starts to mess with the NBA regular season calendar and not just Summer League).


Timberwolves big man Naz Reid out indefinitely with fractured wrist

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE: Naz Reid had surgery on that fractured wrist and will be out six weeks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That means he is not only out for the rest of the regular season but likely the first couple of rounds of the playoffs, if the Timberwolves can make it that far.


This sucks for a Timberwolves team finding its groove.

Part of that groove was the offensive spark of big man Naz Ried off the bench, but now he will be out indefinitely with a fractured wrist, the Timberwolves announced. From the official release:

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) taken yesterday at Mayo Clinic Square by Dr. Kelechi Okoroha on Reid revealed a left scaphoid fracture. He will be out indefinitely and further updates on his progress will be provided when available.

A scaphoid fracture involves one of the small bones at the base of the hand that connects the wrist and fingers. Reid injured his hand on this dunk attempt against the Suns, he instinctively used his left hand to help break the fall and it took the weight of the landing.

Impressively, and despite being in pain, Reid played through the injury.

Reid developed into the sixth man, spark plug roll for the Timberwolves behind starters Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. In his last five games, Reid averaged 18.8 points on 59.1% shooting (including 45% from 3 on four attempts a night) and grabbed 5.2 rebounds in his 22 minutes.

Reid is a free agent this offseason. The Timberwolves want to keep him and have had talks with him, but he will have plenty of suitors.

His loss will be a blow to Minnesota, especially heading into crucial games down the stretch — starting with the Lakers Friday night (a team Reid had some big games against) — and into the postseason. Expect coach Chris Finch to stagger Towns and Gobert a little more, and he can turn to Nate Knight or Luka Garza off the bench, but their role would be limited (especially come the playoffs).