ReGrade the trade: Lakers salvage LeBron era with addition of oft-discarded guard

Taking a look back at the trade that brought D'Angelo Russell to the Lakers.

D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers
D'Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages
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The LeBron James era has been quite the bumpy ride for the Los Angeles Lakers. The franchise of course took home the NBA championship in 2020 and are in position to potentially make another deep postseason run in the current season, but everything in between was far from stable and certain.

After the shortened 2020-21 season that began less than three months following LA's 2020 title run, the Lakers had just lost in the first round of the playoffs and had a major decision to make. Did they want to run it back with their current core once again? Or would they opt for a much riskier, potentially higher-reward option instead?

The answer, of course, is the latter. Rather than keep some of their top role players from a core that took them to a championship, the Lakers chose to bring in what they viewed as a third star to put next to Anthony Davis and LeBron James. But trading multiple players and picks for Russell Westbrook did not turn out to be all it had cracked up to be.

The Lakers sought to undo a huge misstep in 2023

The 2021-22 season ended up being an abject disaster for the Lakers, as they struggled to a 33-49 record and missed the playoffs for the second time since LeBron arrived in LA. Still not convinced they should part with Westbrook just yet and considering his massive contract, the Lakers retained him for the 2022-23 season.

At the 2023 trade deadline, Rob Pelinka and the front office orchestrated a three-team deal that sent Westbrook to the Utah Jazz and brought them back a familiar face in D'Angelo Russell. The trade was regarded as a bit of a sidestep at the time, but that may not be quite the case anymore.