LeBron James Breaks Down What Trade Deadline Acquisitions Will Bring To Lakers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since last week’s NBA trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers were at full strength, and the first returns were positive. With LeBron James back on the court and a new starting lineup featuring three of the team’s deadline acquisitions, the Lakers ran away with an 18-point victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.

In the starting lineup, LeBron and Anthony Davis were joined by D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley, and things went well for the Lakers. It was LeBron’s first contest with his new teammates, and he was excited about what they bring to the table, although he first took time to thank the players the Lakers dealt away.

“First of all, I shout out and salute the guys that left,” James said. “Russ, Pat, JTA, DJ, and Thomas. Those five guys. We all started the season together and tried to work to make some things happen and be the best that we could be out on the floor. So I salute those guys and their commitment to trying to be as good as we could be on the floor.”

All those players made contributions for the Lakers this season, and LeBron wanted to make sure he gave them credit. But in terms of the new additions, James believes in his new teammates. “And right now, I mean, I like the guys we have coming in,” the Lakers’ superstar added. “I mean, it’s going to take some time for us to get to know one another, but I know they play the game at a high level.

“I know D-Lo is a really good, shifty point guard. He can space the floor. Very crafty,” LeBron noted. “Very deceiving with his quickness, the way he plays the game. We got a laser in Malik that we just never had this season. 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. He has kind of that J.R. Smith feeling that he can miss 10 in a row and make 10 in a row right after that.”

Russell certainly has a unique game, and Beasley is a very streaky shooter capable of getting as hot as anyone in the league, so the comparison to J.R. Smith does hold some weight. Russell was excellent on Wednesday, finishing with 21 points and seven assists, while Beasley knocked down a pair of threes and finished with eight points. Both fill needs the Lakers have had this season.

Vanderbilt is someone whose stats won’t always stand out, but LeBron knows what he brings to the table. “Vando is a Swiss army knife. He can do a little bit of everything. His defensive ability, his offensive rebounding ability, you saw tonight. We had a turnover in the backcourt, and he wasn’t even in the backcourt, and he got a block at the rim and got out to contest a three after that and saved us the possession, and AD [Anthony Davis] got the rebound and a foul.”

Even the players who came off the bench, Mo Bamba and Davon Reed, LeBron was very complimentary of. “And then Mo, I think Mo is going to give us a lot of presence as well,” James said. “You saw his shot-blocking ability and his ability to shoot the three. Whether he made them or not tonight, he’s a threat. And he will as he gets comfortable.

“I love what we were able to pick up. And Davon as well, if his opportunity is called. His length and his ability to play multiple positions help as well. So, I thought we did a really good job in the activity bracket on Thursday.”

Rob Pelinka and the Lakers’ front office did everything they could to improve this Lakers roster going into the season’s final stretch. With James and Davis leading the way, this improved roster has the chance to make a postseason push; it will simply be a matter of playing to their potential.

Sportsbooks React

Heading into the February 9th NBA trade deadline, sports betting shops had the Lakers at an aggregate +4000 odds to Win the NBA Championship. Las Vegas bookmakers reacted positively to Los Angeles’ deadline moves, but not by much. When the dust had settled, sportsbooks had the Lakers at +3500 to win the 2023 NBA Championship. The Lakers are now +1400 to win the Western Conference, up from +1600 before the trade.

All-Star Break will Help

Thankfully, after this win, the Lakers will be able to go into All-Star Weekend with some momentum. LeBron James believes this break comes at the perfect time for himself to deal with his injury and the team as a whole.

“It was good to get a game under my belt with these guys tonight to digest what we got going into the break and will do some more homework during the break obviously to see how we can be even better,” LeBron said after Wednesday’s win. “But it’s going to be very beneficial to me. I know I got a game on Sunday, but we don’t play again until Thursday. It’ll be great for not only me but the rest of the group as well.”

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