The Los Angeles Lakers have been linked to virtually every top-tier player ahead of 2019 NBA free agency. But one name picking up steam at a rapid rate is Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell. While it’s known that Russell has a history with the Lakers, it appears the team’s decision to trade him previously is something both parties are willing to look past.
As Arye Abraham reported previously, the Lakers have interest in Russell as a free agent. He was also the first to reveal that the team has set a free-agency meeting with the guard as well.
But while the chatter is just getting underway, it appears former Lakers president and legendary guard Magic Johnson is fully on board with the team adding Russell.
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Magic Johnson Talks Lakers’ Free Agency Pursuit of D’Angelo Russell
In a recent article from The Athletic’s Bill Oram, he reveals that Magic spoke about the Lakers being linked to the Nets guard after the NBA Awards Show on Monday night. Per Oram, Johnson would welcome a return while praising Russell’s growth and maturity.
“He’s better now,” Johnson told The Athletic on Monday night, tapping his right temple with an index finger as he stood in a parking lot outside the NBA Awards at the Santa Monica Airport. “He’s a different player. He’s more mature.”
With that said, The Athletic’s article points out that Magic’s interest would come after the “super super-star” options are off the board. Specifically, he spoke about a scenario in which the Lakers “don’t get Kemba [Walker]” and would still need to fill out roster spots.
“There’s guys like that,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of guys. So we can’t be just saying, ‘Hey if we don’t get Kemba, if we don’t get so and so, it was a disaster.’ No. You’ve still got to fill out a lot of these roster spots.”
While Magic’s argument makes sense, one point that’s tough to gauge is exactly how much behind the “super-superstar” options he believes Russell will come in terms of contract size.
Will Lakers Need to Make D’Angelo Russell a Max-Level Priority?
It’s tough to envision that there won’t be an NBA team or two out there more than willing to offer the All-Star guard a max-level contract. With that said, the Lakers may opt to push for someone like Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker first, but if Russell is on the radar, he’s going to cost a pretty penny.
There’s virtually no reason to believe the Lakers would pay less than the max for Russell unless his market doesn’t shape out as expected, which seems unlikely. But even if Russell isn’t featured in the first wave of max contract offers, he’s bound to receive larger offers from the teams who swing and miss on other options.
Regardless of how you look at it, the Lakers are going to have competition across the board in free agency, and that includes their possible pursuit of Russell.