After the Lakers’ Recent Trade, I’m Laughing Even Harder at Their Decision to Let Alex Caruso Go
The Los Angeles Lakers acquired some veteran help on Thursday.
Patrick Beverley, who was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Utah Jazz as part of the Rudy Gobert blockbuster earlier this summer, is now set to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers acquired the 34-year-old ball of energy in exchange for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson, per ESPN.
For a Lakers team that finished with the 22nd-ranked defensive rating last season, I think it’s safe to say their interest in Beverley is understandable. The former Rocket and Clipper has built a career off his perimeter defense and gritty style of play. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s amassed 65 games of playoff experience since entering the league in 2012.
Still, the fact the Lakers were so desperate for Beverley’s services speaks to how deep of a hole they’ve dug themselves into over the past year. And I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t make me chuckle, especially since the Bulls are reaping the benefits.
This trade has a direct connection to the Lakers’ great decision not to retain Alex Caruso last offseason. Not only is Beverley basically a poor-man’s Caruso at this point in his career, but LA ended up trading the player they initially chose to sign instead of Caruso in exchange for that poor-man’s version.
After playing just two seasons in the league where he averaged 8.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game, the Lakers inked Horton-Tucker to a three-year, $30.8 million deal. Considering the organization also decided to acquire Russell Westbrook’s massive contract from the Washington Wizards, they weren’t in a position to hand both Caruso and Horton-Tucker competitive contracts last offseason. So, clearly, LA chose to let Caruso walk so they could extend Horton-Tucker an offer that would beat anything he could find in the restricted free-agent market.
Now, only one season later (in true hilarious and incompetent fashion), both Horton-Tucker and Caruso are gone.
Again, I think Beverley will be a fine on-court fit for the Lakers this season (the locker room fit is an entirely different story), but talk about a colossal mistake by the LA front office. If Rob Pelinka simply pays the price to keep Caruso, the Lakers likely aren’t scrambling to find this many answers.
Let’s also not forget that this wasn’t some kind of widely-accepted decision at the time. Most seemed to believe that letting Caruso go was a big mistake for the Lakers and a huge perk for the Bulls. I remember The Athletic’s Bill Oram, in particular, writing a great piece on this matter, and I’ll drop a snippet from that below:
Instead, the Lakers signed 20-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker to a three-year, $31 million deal. If the Lakers were only going to be able to keep one of the guards, it can be debated what was more valuable: A 20-year-old with unknown upside or the known commodity of Caruso. LeBron is about to be 37. Was it better to go all-in on a player who has proven he can help the Lakers win now? Or to look to the future a bit more while also hoping Horton-Tucker could help fill Caruso’s shoes?
Look, I know not all the Lakers’ recent shortcomings are tied to their decision to move on from Caruso, but there is no doubt that judgment call has only grown uglier with time. And thank goodness for that!