With his team three games under .500 just past the halfway mark of the season, Los Angeles Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka knew his roster needed to change — in a big way.
In the first stroke of reconstruction on Jan. 23, Pelinka sent guard Kendrick Nunn and three future second-round picks to the Wizards in a trade for forward Rui Hachimura, a 2019 lottery pick with a polished offensive skill set who hadn’t managed to develop in Washington.
Two and a half weeks later, with the Lakers stagnant in the standings and coming off a loss to Oklahoma City on the night LeBron James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s leading career scorer, Pelinka deconstructed some more.
In a flurry of trades, the Lakers parted with five more players — Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones — along with two more second-round picks and their 2027 first-round selection (top-four protected), for a stockpile of new players and three second-round picks.
The players — D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota; Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley from Utah; Mo Bamba from Orlando; and Davon Reed from Denver — made an immediate impact.
“I’m happy for the changes we were able to make,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “It just so happened that Rob was able to pull the trigger on some things that made the most sense in the world and was able to balance out our lineup and really bring guys in that complement our top two dogs.”
From their first game action through the team’s four-game trip away from L.A. that ended with a 135-133 overtime win in Utah on Tuesday, the Lakers have gone 16-7, vaulting from No. 12 in the Western Conference on the day of the Hachimura acquisition to the No. 7 seed with three games remaining in the regular season.
Here’s a look at how those six players have performed so far and a breakdown of what it will cost the Lakers to keep them, with help from ESPN NBA front-office insider Bobby Marks.
Stats since coming to the Lakers: 17.1 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.0 RPG
Check out this sweet dime from D’Angelo Russell
Check out this sweet dime from D’Angelo Russell.
The most pivotal of all the acquisitions thanks to his position and his diverse offensive package, Russell has been a great fit in Los Angeles despite missing nine games since Feb. 11. His shooting numbers since the trade (47.5% from the field, 39.8% from 3) are career bests, and he has had some big moments already: His 28 points and nine assists in a March 10 win against Toronto and 26 points and six assists in a March 22 win against Phoenix stand out. A free agent this summer, he has made it clear he’s keeping his options open. “I’ve been traded midseason,” Russell said, “so to get comfortable somewhere, it’s not easy for me.” There’s another high-profile future free agent point guard the Lakers had interest in trading for this season too: Kyrie Irving. When the two matched up last month, Irving was spectacular (38 points on 14-for-23 shooting) and Russell was pedestrian (11 points on 5-for-17 shooting) in a game the Dallas Mavericks won at the buzzer.
Contract info: Russell is eligible through June 30 to sign a two-year, $67.5 million extension. He is an unrestricted free agent if an agreement is not reached by then. Russell has established Bird rights, allowing the Lakers to sign the guard to a new contract and exceed the salary cap. — Bobby Marks
Stats since coming to the Lakers: 7.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.7 APG
Jarred Vanderbilt’s spin move goes on full display
Jarred Vanderbilt splits a pair of defenders below the rim for a tough layup.
While his statistical output as a Laker is nothing to dismiss, Vanderbilt is the definition of a player whose impact can’t be quantified by scanning a box score. The rangy 6-foot-9 forward has taken to his role as L.A.’s defensive stopper, volunteering to smother the opposition’s most potent offensive threat. “He plays with a sense of urgency, no matter who you put in front of him,” Ham said.
With Vanderbilt just 24 years old and on a cap-friendly deal for next season, it can’t be overstated how important his performance in Dallas just after the All-Star break on Feb. 26 — locking down Mavericks star Luka Doncic while helping the Lakers climb out of a 27-point hole — was in jump-starting the upswing the Lakers have been on.
Contract info: There is $300,000 guaranteed in Vanderbilt’s $4.7 million contract for next season. The salary is fully guaranteed if the Lakers do not request waivers by June 30. Starting on Sept. 7, Vanderbilt is eligible to sign a four-year $71 million extension. — Marks
Malik Beasley | shooting guard | age: 26
Stats since coming to the Lakers: 10.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 APG
Malik Beasley with the and-1 bucket
Malik Beasley with the and-1 bucket.
James’ first public comments on Beasley after the trade deadline said it all. “We got a laser in Malik that we just never had this season,” James said. “A guy, whenever he’s on the floor, no matter if he’s making it or not, you have to respect him because of his ability to shoot the ball.” L.A. opened the season with a loss at Golden State that left James lamenting the roster’s lack of “lasers,” and now, with the playoffs around the corner, Beasley has the skill set to fill it from deep, although he’s struggling to show it. Beasley has been replaced by Austin Reaves in the starting lineup and has had nearly three times as many games in which he has missed five 3s or more (11) as games when he has made five 3s or more (four). Overall, he’s shooting 38% from the field, 35.2% from 3 and 58.3% from the free throw line, but Ham has kept him in the rotation, even after shifting him to the bench. “I’m behind him 1,000 percent, and he’s going to continue to get his minutes and we just got to continue to set great screens for him, encourage him to continue to shoot the ball and to continue to compete defensively,” Ham said.
Contract info: The Lakers have until June 29 to exercise Beasley’s $16.5 million team option for next season. If the option is exercised, Beasley is eligible to sign a two-year, $35.5 million extension. The extension increases to four years, $104 million starting Aug. 9. — Marks
Stats since coming to the Lakers: 9.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.6 APG
Rui Hachimura denies Houston Rockets with stuff
Rui Hachimura denies Houston Rockets with stuff.
Much like with Beasley, consistency has been Hachimura’s biggest challenge since arriving in L.A. And, like Beasley, Hachimura has gone from the starting lineup to a reserve role and a recent DNP-CD. He has had more games scoring single digits off the bench (17) than double digits (12) but is arguably coming off his most productive game as a Laker on Sunday, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds against the Houston Rockets. Hachimura’s size gives the Lakers yet another defender to crowd the court with, and, at 25, he can grow with the program.
Contract info: The Lakers have until June 29 to extend Hachimura a one-year, $7.7 million qualifying offer. If the offer is extended, Hachimura would become a restricted free agent. He has Bird rights and can sign a new contract exceeding the salary cap. — Marks
Mo Bamba | center | age: 24
Stats since coming to the Lakers: 4.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.6 APG
LeBron spins and shovels pass to Bamba for the slam
LeBron James spins through the lane and shovels a pass to Mo Bamba for the one-handed slam.
When L.A. acquired Bamba, the front office likened his size and game at 7 feet, 230 pounds to Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner, for whom the Lakers nearly traded before the season. There’s been barely any sample size to back up the comparison, however, as the No. 6 pick in the 2018 draft has played in just seven games for the Lakers. First, he had to serve a suspension stemming from an altercation he had when he was still with Orlando and then he suffered a high ankle sprain that has sidelined him since early March. The question is, when Bamba gets healthy, can he get back in the mix as Anthony Davis‘ backup and supplant Wenyen Gabriel in the rotation? Bamba is still only 24 years old, and the Lakers could pick up his option for next season — to continue to develop him or simply to occupy a $10 million salary slot, which could be a helpful number the next time Pelinka canvasses the league for deals.
Contract info: Bamba has a $10.3 million non-guaranteed contract for next season. The contract is guaranteed if the Lakers do not request waivers by June 29. — Marks
Davon Reed | shooting guard | age: 27
Stats since coming to the Lakers: 1.1 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 0.6 APG
The 27-year-old shooting guard hasn’t cracked Ham’s rotation, with Reaves, Beasley and Lonnie Walker IV all ahead of him on the depth chart. That said, he has made a good impression on the team in the eyes of Ham with his approach to practices and participation in the Lakers’ scrimmages with the “stay ready” group of players who don’t receive regular playing time.
Contract info: Reed has a $2.1 million non-guaranteed contract. The protection increases from $0 to $500K if Reed is not waived 10 days after the Lakers’ last game. The salary is fully guaranteed if Reed is not waived by July 8. — Marks