Four of the top seven players in minutes for the 2022 Minnesota Timberwolves will soon play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Can a return to Minneapolis be far behind? A Josh Okogie acquisition? Whither Greg Monroe?
Joke aside, the glass-half-full perspective in the wake of Wednesday night’s reported three-team trade between the Lakers, Jazz and Timberwolves is that the Lakers have the surrounding pieces from Minnesota’s 46-win team last season …. except instead of Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, the headliners are LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
That’s a prima facie case that the Lakers, post-trade, should be quite a bit better than they were before. Did it justify the investment they just made of a future first-round pick? Squaring that requires believing that they helped their future at least as much as their present. I think, in this case, we can probably make that argument.
To review, the Lakers are finalizing a deal that would send Russell Westbrook, Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson to Utah, along with a top-four-protected 2027 first-round pick. Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and second-round picks in 2025 and 2026 would go from Utah to Minnesota; D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota to the Lakers; a 2024 second-round pick would return from the Lakers to Minnesota; and Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt from Utah to the Lakers.
Because the universe revolves around the Lakers, let’s start with them. OK, actually let’s start with the Lakers because they gave up the most capital and made the clearest roster transformation. This is a deal we’ll be talking about for a while, hopefully in more positive terms than the disastrous trade to acquire Westbrook in 2021.
As much as the Lakers might believe themselves to be championship contenders, the evidence thus far is overwhelming that A) they’re not, and B) the three players they’re acquiring are highly unlikely to move the needle enough to change that state of affairs.