Trade grades: Russel Westbrook edition

Owen Milanowski

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The school year is winding down, and I have not even covered the last big trade of the 2023 NBA trade deadline! In this edition of my column, I will be grading the trades of three teams: the Lakers, the Jazz, and the Timberwolves.

The Los Angeles Lakers received the following players: Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and D’Angelo Russell. The Utah Jazz received the following players: Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Russell Westbrook, and the Lakers’ top-four protected 2027 first-round pick. The Minnesota Timberwolves received the following players: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Mike Conley, a 2024 second-round pick from Memphis or Washington (less favorable, via Lakers), Utah’s 2025 second-round pick, Utah’s 2026 second-round pick.

The Lakers made out like bandits in this trade. Coming off of two down seasons from Russell Westbrook, you would think the team would have to sell low, but this was a crazy return. Malik Beasley is a crafty sharpshooter who can deliver in the clutch. Jarred Vanderbilt is a masterful defender who you can put on an opponent’s best player. D’Angelo Russell is the perfect combination of scoring and passing to put next to Lebron. Overall, the Lakers should be commended for this masterclass in turning nothing into something, and this trade kept their playoff hopes alive. They have earned a grade of A+.

The Jazz have bolstered the future at the expense of the present. Malik Beasley and Mike Conley may have been a little too old to be included in the Jazz’s future core, but Jarred Vanderbilt is a young and talented defender the team could have used. The Jazz did not really get too much manpower back in this trade. Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson are career backups, and Russell Westbrook was waived. The real kicker here for the Jazz is the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick. By then, Lebron will have retired, and Anthony Davis will be 34-years-old. The Lakers are projected to be bad, and the Jazz capitalizing on that is the best thing about this trade. Teams like the Jazz should prioritize the future, and this was the right move. Utah earned a grade of B.

The Timberwolves got a pretty good return in this trade. All the team gave away was D’Angelo Russell, who many people thought would be worth a middle-of-the-road first-round pick. What was given in return was arguably worth more. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is not the best player, but he can give you solid minutes off of the bench. Mike Conley is pretty old for an NBA player at 35-years-old, but he is still producing at a high enough level for a playoff team to have him as a starting point guard, and the Timberwolves’ center, Rudy Gobert, has been playing better with Conley than with Russell. The best thing here for Minnesota is the second-round picks. The Timberwolves are a strange medley of old and young players, and with old players retiring or players moving on in free agency, younger players from the second round could help bolster the team’s ranks. For their roster shake-ups and the bolstering of their stash of draft picks, the Timberwolves have earned a grade of B-.

And with that, all of the major trades from the trade deadline have been covered. Next time I write for this column, I will start covering some of the smaller trades from the trade deadline that may have gone unnoticed.