Lakers take on Bucks after whirlwind trade deadline

The Lakers are having quite the week themselves.

So the Lakers play against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. But it’s kind of tough to talk about the upcoming game because the Lakers practically have a brand new team after what was possibly the busiest trade deadline in NBA history.

Rob Pelinka tore down the mismatched roster in one fell swoop.

Gone are Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Thomas Bryant. And Kendrick Nunn was sent away not too long ago, too.

In addition to getting Rui Hachimura a couple of weeks ago, the Lakers added their former draft pick D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Davon Reed, and Mo Bamba.

D’Angelo Russell was drafted by the Lakers in 2015 with the second pick overall. After a tumultuous stint with the Lakers, he thrived in Brooklyn where he became an all-star in 2019. He has spent the last three years in Minnesota and has become a much improved shooter.

Malik Beasley has always been a shooter. He’s a career .380 shooter from three. The Lakers hope he can help spread the floor.

Jarred Vanderbilt is not an offensive dude but his defense is his calling card. He’s also a very good rebounder and the Lakers could definitely use that, especially on the offensive glass.

Davon Reed hasn’t gotten much run at all. He’s 27 years old and has only averaged over 11 minutes per in 114 career games. He can shoot the three and provide a little defense. Seems solid if he can get on the court.

Finally, Mo Bamba seems to have been coveted by the Lakers for a while now. He’s another big body the team can put in the frontcourt. He’s also a very good three-point shooter (I wonder what the theme is here for the Lakers). Bamba averaged a career-high 10.6 points last season.

As for the players sent away, I wish them well. I’m easier on Russell Westbrook than most people but it was just not a good fit from the start. There were flashes where I thought for a second that this could work (the overtime game against the Knicks was an example) but in the end, it didn’t work out. He ended up in Utah and the deal that brought them D’Angelo Russell, Vanderbilt, and Beasley. And the Lakers only had to give up one of their first round picks instead of two! Westbrook will likely be bought out and have a new team later in the season.

Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones also go to Utah in that deal with Westbrook. JTA provided some hellish defense when the Lakers needed it and shot the occasional three. He’s good for a bench role. Damian Jones was a big that had some good hands and was a rim-runner. Hopefully, he can have a bigger role in Utah.

Patrick Beverley didn’t get off to a good start but his offense was getting better as the season went on. He was being a usual pest (sometimes, on his own squad!) and he’s the type of player that will have his teammate’s back. He was traded to Orlando for Mo Bamba and he will also likely be bought out.

Finally, Thomas Bryant probably saw the writing on the wall when Anthony Davis came back. Everyone will probably remember that photo where he wanted the ball while LeBron put up his record-breaking shot. But Bryant is a bundle of energy that is great inside the paint. Could be much better on defense but he’ll have a solid role on a team. Maybe he’ll get that in Denver (where Davon Reed and three second-round picks were acquired). He was actually one of the players that kept the Lakers somewhat afloat after that horrid 2-10 start.

So the Lakers start anew (again) with 27 games left. Of course, the problem is that with all the deals made on Thursday, the Lakers will be very shorthanded against the Bucks. It’s even worse now that the NBA’s all-time scoring leader LeBron James is now out for Thursday. It’s hard to take on an elite (and healthy) Eastern Conference team like Milwaukee when you don’t have half the team available.

But can you believe that the Lakers actually hold a win against the Bucks this season? They did it by moving the ball around (32 assists), taking care of the ball extremely well (four turnovers!), and having Anthony Davis dominate (44 points and 10 rebounds). They might ask him to do even more than that and have guys like Lonnie Walker IV (he’s still with the Lakers!) and Austin Reaves (he’s playing again!) step up. This game won’t really show how the current Lakers are since, again, they don’t have most of their guys (the new acquired players are expected to play on Saturday). But we know the Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo (he’s scored three straight 40-pieces against the Lakers) and that guy can dominate a game at any given time.

It’s probably not the best timing for the Lakers; they are 25-30 and could sink even further after this game. But I’ve said before that stranger things have happened in the NBA. I don’t expect them to win on Thursday but strangely enough, there still might be hope for the Lakers this season when the new (and old) faces join the team.

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