The Los Angeles Lakers’ offseason has been viewed glowingly. and it is not just because of how they are currently set up. They also left themselves with the flexibility to make further moves if an opportunity arises.
Veteran D’Angelo Russell has been a popular choice to be included in any package in trade rumors thanks to his contract and the makeup of the Lakers’ roster.
“The Lakers could have moved on from Russell in free agency, but they brought him back on a two-year, $36 million contract instead,” wrote Zach Buckley for Bleacher Report on September 12. “You could argue he’s the best point guard on the roster … However, L.A. could soon discover that it doesn’t need him.”
Buckley’s primary argument for taking the “risk” and trading Russell is Gabe Vincent.
Vincent signed a three-year, $33 million contract in free agency after a breakout run with the Miami Heat in the playoffs. He routinely hit big shots as Miami made a to the NBA Finals as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Conversely, Russell’s play tailed off during the postseason, leading to a reduced role as the Western Conference Finals wore on.
Gabe Vincent a ‘Better Fit’ Than D’Angelo Russell
“Gabe Vincent’s … a better on-paper fit with the Lakers’ stars,” Buckley continued. “L.A. also plans to up Austin Reaves‘ offensive involvement … Throw in [LeBron] James‘ many on-ball responsibilities and the chance that first-round rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino proves a quick study, and the Lakers could be well-stocked with ball-handlers without Russell.”
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has already said he plans to “feature” Reaves next season.
Russell also waived the no-trade clause afforded to him by signing a 1+1 contract, fueling speculation. But the Lakers dealt with a lot of injuries last season. With aging stars in James and Anthony Davis, banking on an improvement could prove costly.
Darvin Ham Boasts Of Lakers’ Depth
“I think the sky is the limit for what we will be able to do,” said Ham, per Leonard Solms of ESPN on August 14. “I think we added a lot of depth, a lot of guys that have skill, size and athleticism, so I look forward to all of that coming together.”
Ham also spoke of the team needing to sacrifice to complete their pursuit of a championship.
“I think the togetherness … and obviously, you need to execute and have a team full of guys who are willing to sacrifice their personal goals, their personal agendas, to align themselves with what the team goal is and that’s to win the championship,” Ham said. “The team that’s most together … those are usually the teams that come out on top.”
Interestingly, Russell has also pushed that same message in recognition of the different players Ham has at his disposal this season.
The Lakers got off to a 2-10 start last season as they dealt with injuries. While they found their footing, the start still set the stage for the retooling general manager Rob Pelinka did at the trade deadline in February.
A similar slow start could lead to even more changes, and Russell could be at the center of it.