The Lakers group chat just got a lot more interesting, and profane.
Thursday morning NBA fans woke up to the news that the Lakers traded guard Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson for loquacious and tenacious guard Patrick Beverley of the Utah Jazz.
That’s right, Patrick Beverley, he of the viral “Chris Paul is a Cone” on First Take moment back in May and a man who is the biggest trash talker in the NBA. He’s jawed with LeBron James in the past, come at Russell Westbrook, heck, earlier this week he tweeted at Kevin Durant insinuating that KD’s indecision about staying with the Brooklyn Nets cost players jobs.
Beverley backtracked on those statements later, saying he wasn’t speaking about Durant directly (don’t buy it).
Laker fans already know Beverley from his years with the Clippers. He was originally a Laker draft pick way back in 2009 but never played with the franchise, spending a couple of years overseas, then resurfacing with the Houston Rockets in 2012-2013.
Beverley brings some brashness to the Lakers, some chatter, some swagger. But has he already burned Laker bridges in the locker room?
What The Lakers Are Getting
On the money side, Beverley is in the last year of his deal and will make $13 million. That’s pretty good for a guy who’s made his reputation as a defensive pest.
The reputation is legit. Beverley is a three-time All-NBA Defensive team selection. ESPN’s world of data shows that in the last five years, he’s held offensive players he’s guarding to 41.9 percent shooting.
Offensively, Beverley has a career average of 8.8 points, but he does shoot well from three. He shot 40 percent from behind the arc last season.
You have to like all of those numbers. The Lakers don’t need more scoring. They don’t need anyone to handle the ball. They need defense, a player who can check Steph Curry and Chris Paul and a guy who can make an open three occasionally.
The off-the-court stuff? You can look at it two ways. NBA players have thick skin and while it’s unusual to have an active player criticize another, you know it happens in the locker room and on the group chats around the NBA. It will really depend on how sensitive the players are. LeBron just wants to win. We know that. Westbrook though seems to have thinner skin. There might be some initial animosity there, but hopefully, they handle it like pros.
What The Lakers Give Up
Am I the only one who is kind of disappointed that the Lakers gave up Talen Horton-Tucker? When I watched the Lakers play last year, I liked his youth and energy. He’s only 21 out of Iowa State and showed steady improvement each of his three years with the Lakers. But in the Lakers’ win-now mode, he probably doesn’t fit.
Johnson has been a journeyman, bottom-of-the-roster player for most of his career. He started 27 games last year and set a career high in field goal percentage at 46.6 percent.
What the trade does is further decimate the Lakers bench, I mean, literally, at this point the Lakers’ second-team might be five guys grabbed from a local YMCA. This is going to be a factor in the regular season at some point. Another hidden issue is that in practice, players like to compete against other good players. This Lakers roster is top-heavy and bottom-light.
What Does it Mean for Lakers’ Future
I know Laker fans want to see Westbrook in any other jersey next year, but I don’t see it happening. Beverley and Westbrook can coexist as a guard tandem, remember, Beverley wants to play defense, and Westbrook wants the ball and wants to shoot.
And, I know this sounds really optimistic, but is it possible that Beverley creates a new defensive tone for the entire team and gives them some pride in playing defense? Clearly, Beverley doesn’t back down.
The Lakers have invested too much money in Westbrook and, let’s face it, no one else in the NBA wants him. They have said publicly they are going to run it back this season with the same crew. LeBron just signed an extension. Anthony Davis is still on a big deal. There aren’t a lot of draft picks the Lakers can barter with.
Don’t forget new coach Darvin Ham has preached a defensive mindset and Beverley fits in there.
I’ve said this on here before, but the Lakers’ goal this season has to be to stay healthy enough to win 48-52 games in the regular season, make the playoffs, and see if LeBron can carry the team from there. Adding Beverley helps.