LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Los Angeles Lakers are trading Russell Westbrook to Utah and re-acquiring guard D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota in a three-team, eight-player deal, a person with knowledge of the trade told The Associated Press on Wednesday night.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the teams did not announce the major deal made before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Los Angeles also gets guard Malik Beasley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt from the Jazz, bolstering its core around LeBron James in an attempt to jumpstart its season. The Lakers fell to 25-30 on Tuesday, while James set an NBA career scoring record, and are 13th in the 15-team Western Conference.
The Lakers send Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and their 2027 first-round pick to Utah with Westbrook.
ESPN and The Athletic first reported the trade. Those outlets also said Minnesota was getting Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker from Utah, along with three second-round picks.
Westbrook’s tenure with his hometown team lasted just 130 tumultuous games. The 2017 NBA MVP never really got going with James and Anthony Davis plagued by injuries for any significant stretch, struggling to turn his possession-heavy game into a complementary role.
A move to the bench last fall produced minor improvements over a dismal 2021-22 season, but Westbrook still looked deeply uncomfortable with the Lakers, who are in danger of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. Westbrook averaged 17.4 points, 7.2 assists, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 turnovers per game during his time in Los Angeles, where fans regularly grumbled about his poor shooting and turnovers.
The 34-year-old Westbrook is making about $47 million in the final year of his contract. Months after the Lakers angered much of their fan base around the world by not trading Westbrook in the summer, they traded him for Russell, who played his first two NBA seasons with the Lakers after being selected with the second overall pick in 2015 .draft.
Russell was a rookie during Kobe Bryant’s final season, and the point guard was the most consistent part of two poor Lakers teams before Magic Johnson traded him to Brooklyn in 2017. Russell has now been traded for the fourth time in his eight NBA seasons.
Russell is averaging 17.9 points, 6.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds while shooting a career-best 46.5 percent from the field in the final year of his contract with Minnesota, which paid him more than $31 million this season. His style on both ends of the court could also complement James and Davis better than Westbrook, though the Lakers will have some time to figure that out.
The Timberwolves courted Russell heavily when he was on the market in July 2019, when Brooklyn ended up pulling off a sign-and-trade deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Nets and Russell to Golden State. The Wolves eventually acquired Russell at the February 2020 deadline and teamed him up with fellow draft class buddy Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Russell-Towns pairing never worked out, in part because of injuries to each player that often prevented them from being on the field at the same time. The Wolves drafted Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick in 2020, integrating another high-performance offensive player into a lineup whose value is minimized without frequent touches.
The Wolves made the playoffs in 2022, but it wasn’t until recently that Russell and Edwards truly clicked after coach Chris Finch made Edwards the primary ball handler and moved Russell to an off-ball position to better maximize his shooting ability.
Russell is shooting a career-best 39.1% from 3-point range after making five or more shots from deep in six of his last 17 games.
Conley is more of a pure distribution-first point guard than Russell, who has never been a consistent perimeter defender. Conley, 35, is averaging 10.7 points and 7.7 assists in his fourth season with Utah.
Conley will be reunited with big man Rudy Gobert, whose transition to Minnesota has been slow. Conley and Gobert have meshed well with the Jazz, and their collective playoff experience should also help a Wolves team that has been extremely inconsistent this season as it tries to keep pace in a crowded race.
There will be an even bigger Minnesota reunion with the Lakers, with Vanderbilt and Beasley going to L.A. where Patrick Beverley is already playing — though Beverley himself has been in a number of trade rumors in the final hours before the deadline. All four players helped the Timberwolves to the No. 7 seed for the playoffs last season before Vanderbilt, Beasley and Beverley were traded to the Jazz in the Gobert deal.
Beasley is a strong outside shooter, averaging 13.4 points while hitting 35.9% of his 3-pointers for the Jazz. The 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt averaged 8.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, excelling defensively and on the boards while starting 41 of his 52 games.
The Lakers began an overhaul of their roster last month by trading Kendrick Nunn to Washington for Rui Hachimura, who is fitting in well as a wing option so far. Los Angeles also moved to acquire Kyrie Irving, but Brooklyn sent the controversial guard to Dallas.
Toscano-Anderson and Jones played almost no role after joining the Lakers in the offseason.
AP sportswriter Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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