Trading D’Angelo Russell looked like the move at the time. Now? Not so much.
On June 20th of 2017, the Los Angeles Lakers began the long “process” of clearing cap space for big free-agents. The did so by trading D’Angelo Russell.
The Lakers offloaded Timofey Mozgov’s big contract and also sent Russell to the Brooklyn Nets for the 27th pick in the draft and Brook Lopez.
Magic Johnson has said many times that his goal is to get good, young talent through the draft and then sign big name free-agents which seems like a legitimate strategy. Players like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron were the kind of stars that Magic was imagining in purple and gold jerseys.
But as it turns out, the Lakers are struggling mightily and D’Angelo Russell is having his best season so far in the League. Here are 4 reasons why the Lakers regret trading D’Angelo.
Annual All-Star? Probably.
Russell has been one of the best guards this year in the Eastern Conference. He is currently averaging 20 points, 6.7 assists, and 3.7 rebounds this season.
Not only that, he’s leading the Nets to a playoff birth in the re-vamped East while shooting 37% from three, 44% from the field, and 82% from the free-throw line. The Nets sit at 31-30 which is good for 6th in the conference.
Russell was named to his first all-star game in 2019. Receiving this award was awesome for the young player’s confidence as he was selected to replace Victor Oladipo in Charlotte.
D’Angelo had 6 points in the All-Star game, but the point is that he was there, and could be there for many years to come.
Russell looks like he could have been a stellar compliment to LeBron. Instead, the Lakers are chucking 30 threes a game and shooting 34% which is good for 28th in the League.
Long Bombs Away
Let’s take a second and mention Russell’s three-point barrage. He is shooting 7.5 three’s a game! That’s something the Lakers could really use. Here are some reference points for you:
Steph Curry: 11.6 threes attempted/5.2 threes made
James Harden 13 threes attempted/5.0 threes made
Klay Thompson: 7.5 threes attempted/3.0 threes made
Paul George: 9.6 threes attempted/3.9 threes made
D’Angelo Russell: 7.5 threes attempted/2.8 threes made.
He’s not quite at that elite level yet, but the potential is definitely there.
We all know that LeBron needs floor spacing, and Russell seems like a perfect player to pair alongside of the King. Unfortunately, Magic thought it was a great idea to trade away the youngster instead of letting him develop.
This is a trend I fear might happen with players like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram as Magic and Rob Pelinka continue to make front-office mistakes.
But there is another reason that trading D’Angelo Russell was a bad move for the Lakers.
As you can see, things didn’t go well for Bridges and Tristan Thompson mocking Russell.
Honestly, the first time I saw his famous “Ice in my Veins” celebration I thought it was pretty average, but he’s used it over and over because of the clutch shots he’s hitting on a nightly basis.
So you know what? I’m on board. This celebration ranks above: Lance’s guitar, Harden’s cooking, and LeBron’s silencer. It just doesn’t outrank this…
Only real fans remember that one! (LINSANITY BABY!)
You better believe the Lakers could use some of that clutch shooting at the end of games. Recently, it’s been Ingram and Kuzma dropping the ball in crunch time. Normally a close game turns into LeBron hoisting everything and nobody else really contributing.
The Price Is Right! Or Not Right…Actually It Was Terrible!
At this point, if you don’t think Russell is a really good player then you probably need to re-read the last 500 words I’ve written. But every player has a price right? I wouldn’t trade Giannis for this version of D’Angelo ever in a million years. So what did the Lakers get for him that made him so easy to give up?
Well, the pro was that the Lakers got the 27th pick aka Kyle Kuzma and Brook Lopez. That was the return for trading D’Angelo Russell.
But the Lakers let Brook Lopez walk and he turned into “Splash Mountain” (One of my favorite nicknames from the League this year)
Kuzma is a good role player, but I just don’t think he is in the same bracket as Russell right now.
Now, one could argue that the Lakers wouldn’t have been able to sign LeBron with Mozgov’s contract on the books, so trading Russell inadvertently led to LeBron’s signing.
But the Lakers could have traded Julius
It’s heating up in Los Angeles and it remains to be seen whether or not the Lakers will make the playoffs. Meanwhile, a young prodigy that they deemed “a selfish role-player” is leading the improbable Brooklyn Nets to a playoff birth for the first time since 2015.
It’s not hard to say that Magic and Rob are probably looking back at their D’Angelo Russell trade with all sorts of regrets.