The 2023 Los Angeles Lakers team were in deep water before the trade deadline. Starting the season 2-10, then eventually reaching 25-31 before the moves. Lakers moved on from Hall of Famer Russell Westbrook who clearly just didn't fit the team. Patrick Beverley, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Thomas Bryant (congrats by the way), and Damion Jones. The new acquisitions of D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba certainly have the Lakers a new taste but was what uncertain was would they have enough time to reach the play-in or playoffs? They did just both and went far enough to reach the Western Conference Finals.
So I thought I would grade in order the contributions each player has.
Anthony Davis: A- (92.5%)
First to receive the highest grade is Anthony Davis. Not only did the new trades help the Lakers in the win column, but they certainly had a positive impact on AD. D'Angelo Russell was the perfect pick and roll partner for him, Vanderbilt made up for a lot of defensive ground, and Rui Hachimura was a great back up option. Davis also had positive impact on all of them as well. AD's rim protection along with Vanderbilt's hustle helped the Lakers solidify the best defense post trade deadline.
In the playoffs, AD struggled remaining consistent. He would have games where he looks like the best player in the world, then games where you look at him and wonder where his mind is at. Despite his offensive inconsistencies in the playoffs, the defense and rebounding was always there and still made a huge impact against the Grizzlies and Nuggets. Running into Nikola Jokic wasn't ideal however.
LeBron James: A- (90.7%)
LeBron James is next up on the grade list. Now the all time leading scorer in NBA history. Before the trades, many speculated if that was really all LeBron cared about instead of actually winning. When the trades happen, those noises went to bed. Though it took him some time to return, when he was back with this new roster - everything just seemed to click and he even established an immediate chemistry with every new member on the team.
Austin Reaves: B+ (88.6%)
Austin Reaves is swiftly doing two things as a professional basketball player. 1) Swiftly becoming a very good player and 2) Swiftly becoming a fan favorite for the Lakers. Not an easy feat to do when you are an undrafted player. Reaves hit the ground running after the trade deadline, averaging 17 points to finish the season. He and D'Angelo Russell worked so well as a backcourt duo that they ranked in the top 6 in efficiency among backcourts. Reaves still needs to become a better decision maker with the ball consistently and has to get his defensive stances more polished.
In the playoffs, his production was up and down but his hustle and aggressiveness remained the same each game after each game. He is entering restricted free agency this off-season but it will almost impossible to believe the Lakers will not bring him back.
D'Angelo Russell: B+ (86.9%)
D'Angelo Russell was the main grab for the Lakers at the trading deadline, on an expiring contract and likely knew he was not going to re-sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Russell returned to the Lakers after 6 in a half years apart and immediately gave them a new flavor at the point guard position. Russell's poise and craftiness blended in so well with Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves that the Lakers offense was extremely fun to watch with the ball in his hands. To finish the season, he averaged 17 points with the Lakers and had his most efficient season yet in terms of base stats and clutch stats.
Things get dicey when mentioning the playoffs. Russell showed up big time against the Grizzlies and had some really great moments against the Warriors. He hits, and I mean he slams into a wall in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets to the point where he couldn't be on the floor for long periods of time. Nuggets did an excellent job keeping him from being effective which is something they've done all playoffs against other teams. With unrestricted free agency hitting, the Lakers have a decision to make on DLo's future with them.
Jarred Vanderbilt: B+ (86.0%)
One thing that Lakers fans probably didn't know was the already established chemistry between D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt having played the last 2.5 years in Minnesota. Vanderbilt has developed swiftly into one of the better defenders and hustle rebounders in the league and his energy proved vital for the Lakers in such a short span. Putting him next to Anthony Davis gave the Lakers an edge on the rebounding side and defensive side. Vando isn't just an interior defender as well, you can also switch him onto the opposing team's best perimeter offensive player and he will do damage to them. His offense still needs a little bit of work and there were times where he lost some rotation minutes in the playoffs. But the Lakers know what they are getting from him every night: hustle, grit and grind.
Rui Hachimura: B- (82.2%)
Rui Hachimura was the first domino in the Lakers trade deadline fiasco as he spent about 2 weeks with his new team before the other new members came in. It was an okay start for Rui, he pretty much was doing the same thing he was doing with the Washington Wizards. Offensively valuable at times and defense could use a little work. He began to slowly see his role with the team decline into getting Snaps but boy did he show up in the playoffs.
Hachimura was so good in the playoffs that he didn't let being in away games and the pressure from the crowds bug him. In multiple games, hitting multiple clutch shots and even having some great defensive moments. He, like Reaves, is entering restricted free agency but there are some reports swaying around that even though he is a restricted free agent, he would like to be somewhere where he is happy. Kind of suggesting his time with the Lakers wasn't exactly what he thought it be. But I could be wrong.
Dennis Schroder: C+ (77.1%)
Dennis Schroder with his 2nd stint with the Lakers had some real good moments for them. He became a natural back up point guard behind D'Angelo Russell and gave the Lakers different looks on both sides. He has showed up numerous times in clutch moments in the regular season, play-in and playoffs. The positives perhaps end there. Though he is an very aggressive defender, he sometimes makes the wrong read and get beat. He is not a great decision maker with the ball and will constantly miss open guys next to him. He tends to act like Russell Westbrook and will attack the defense 1 on 4 at the worst times.
This isn't to harp on Schroder like he is a bad player. He is a good player for what he is, he just has those really bad moments.
Troy Brown Jr: D+ (68.6%)
The grades kind of get lost in the sauce going from here. Troy Brown Jr is the start of the weirdness. Truthfully, didn't really expect Brown to be an impact player but he showed up at key times when it was needed. He is a stellar perimeter defender and a decent shooter. By decent, I mean he will have hot streaks where you say "DAMN! He's hitting everything!" to having really bad cold streaks where you say "Man this guy couldn't throw a ball at a parked car if it was standing right in his face". But he's a good player for what he is valued at.
Lonnie Walker IV: D+ (68.2%)
Lonnie Walker IV really got the bad end of the mud stick really early into the season and literally could not find a consistent role with the team even after the trade deadline. It wasn't until a masterful performance in the 4th quarter against the Warriors in Game 3 where he began to shine like a lightbulb. That shine quickly switched off however as he just wasn't that same player afterwards. He still got his opportunity however and did what he could.
Malik Beasley: D- (62.1%)
There was some real high hopes for Malik Beasley coming to the Lakers. One of the best catch and shoot 3 point shooters in the league playing alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis and D'Angelo Russell. He would get some very easy looks right? Nope. He couldn't hit the side of the barn as a member of the Lakers. Really it's not all his fault. Let's not forget the Lakers got the trades and mushed them together without any practice or chance to establish what each player needs. Beasley is a fine player that you need to understand his movements how to run plays to get him open looks. Darvin Ham doesn't exactly run a ton of pin down plays or shooting plays for his shooters. Hence why Beasley struggled with them. A good off season and training camp you could see a different Beasley with the Lakers that's if he stays.
Players Not Graded:
Scotty Pippen Jr, Mo Bamba, Tristan Thompson, Cole Swider, Max Christie, Davin Reed