How Westbrook-DLo blockbuster impacts West playoff race


The second blockbuster of trade deadline season went down Wednesday night in a three-team deal between the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz.

The Lakers, one day after losing an emotional game to the Oklahoma City Thunder in which LeBron James became the NBA's all-time leading scorer, acquired D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt.

Minnesota received guards Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker and three second-round picks, while the Jazz landed Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones and -- stop if you've heard this before -- a lightly-protected first-round pick in 2027.

Now, what does this mean for the Western Conference playoff picture? Let's dive in:

Lakers are ... back?

What a move for Los Angeles.

The Lakers, who rank in the bottom five in terms of 3-point percentage (33.8) and makes (10.5) this season, acquired two outside threats in Russell and Beasley. Not to mention, they rid themselves of Westbrook, the second-worst 3-point shooter (29.6 percent) among qualified players in the league.

Los Angeles also acquired Vanderbilt, the embodiment of grit, hustle and energy in the NBA. The Lakers lacked all three of those intangibles on their roster.

This trade doesn't make the Lakers championship contenders. (Sorry, LeBron stans.) And we'll see how Russell, who can get very hot but also very, very cold, fits in alongside James and Anthony Davis. 

But it does make the Western Conference playoff picture even more interesting. The Lakers (25-30) are only two games back of the 10th-seeded Utah Jazz, who just traded away significant pieces.

LePlay-In Tournament, anyone?

Vanderbilt off the block

The Kings and other Western Conference contenders likely had their eyes on Vanderbilt at the trade deadline.

All 30 NBA teams could use a player like the former second-round pick. At 6-foot-9, Vanderbilt ranks fifth in rebounds per game (7.9) among players who log less than 25 minutes per game. 

Vanderbilt even would have been a decent fit with the Warriors, who probably didn't have him highlighted as their main target but could use a player on their second unit who prides himself in doing the dirty work.

Wipe Vando's name off your lists of trade-deadline targets.

Ant's team

The Timberwolves have been an interesting team to watch this season. 

After completing one of the most shocking trades in recent NBA history to acquire center Rudy Gobert this past summer, Minnesota is 30-28 through 58 contests. Trading away Russell might look, on the surface, as the team mailing in the rest of the season, but that's not the case.

It didn't appear like the Wolves and Russell were heading towards a contract extension this summer and he probably would have departed in free agency.

Russell and Gobert never really meshed together on the floor. Conley, on the other hand, played three seasons alongside Gobert on the Jazz and could unlock the 7-footer on the offensive side of the floor.

The Timberwolves are Anthony Edwards' team, now more than ever. They have their rising superstar in Edwards, another star in Karl-Anthony Towns returning from injury soon and a good fit for Gobert in Conley.

Let's not erase the Wolves from any playoff discussion.

Where does Russ land?

Westbrook won't be playing in Salt Lake City -- during the All-Star Game in February and likely for the rest of this season.

The Jazz are expected to buy out Westbrook's contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat reportedly all have been listed as potential suitors for the nine-time All-Star guard should he become available.

RELATED: Kings finally benefit from late-game call in win over Rockets

Westbrook remaining in Los Angeles but in a Clippers uniform would be an interesting midseason twist, now that John Wall reportedly is expected to be moved by 12 p.m. PT Thursday.

Lottery Jazz

Danny Ainge did it again.

Utah's president of basketball operations landed another first-round pick, bumping his total of unprotected and lightly protected picks to 15 -- yes, fifteen -- through 2029 [h/t ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski].

The 2030s in the NBA run through Salt Lake City.

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