The Los Angeles Lakers are still weighing all their options when it comes to D’Angelo Russell’s future and a potential sign-and-trade that could bring back a key piece is gaining momentum.
In fact, it is the Lakers’ preferred outcome when it comes to Russell, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic. And Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is on the team’s radar as a target.
“My read on the situation is that the Lakers would prefer to use D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade, but I’m not sure the market is there,” Buha wrote in his latest mailbag column. “Landing Kyrie Irving for Russell is shaping up to be a pipe dream, especially with Dallas unlikely to help Los Angeles out. Fred VanVleet, a Klutch client, looms as a possibility, but adding him would require Toronto to agree to terms with Russell (or take on the Beasley and Bamba contracts).”
As Buha notes, there would have to be a few things that fall into place to make the deal happen, premier among those being the Raptors’ having an interest in Russell. Toronto fired head coach Nick Nurse but the squad — and their next skipper — have some pieces to build around.
VanVleet also has a player option he’ll have to weigh. If he opts in, he’ll make nearly $23 million. There were reports that VanVleet turned down a four-year, $114 million extension from the Raptors prior to the 2022-23 season.
D’Angelo Russell May Have Limited Market as Free Agent
Russell, 27, is a solid point guard and looked like a key part of the Lakers’ future after he landed back with LA at the trade deadline. Russell averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 assists while shooting 41.4 percent from three-point range in the regular season, helping the Lakers lock up a playoff spot.
However, much of the goodwill he had built up went out the window in the postseason, becoming nearly unplayable in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. He was removed from the starting lineup for Game 4, which was hard to take.
“I mean, it was tough,” Russell said. “It was tough to agree with it obviously, but in a short period of time to not become a distraction to your teammates and to everybody else that’s preparing just like you to get the one goal done which is win.”
Russell is eligible for a two-year, $67.5 million extension, which the Lakers would have to get done before July 1. The Lakers are not expected to pursue him at that number and Russell was seeking quite a bit more during his time with the Timberwolves, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.
“Then there’s the matter of Russell, who was seeking a new deal worth upward of $100 million over four years when he was with the Timberwolves, sources said,” After an inconsistent postseason, it’s hard to imagine many bidders for Russell at that price point.
Lakers Want to Keep ‘Core of Young Guys’ Together
Russell was the headliner of the Lakers’ trade haul, which general manager Rob Pelinka called “pre-agency” — a sign that he was hoping to keep many of them around. Pelinka expressed a similar vision at the end of the season.
“I would say this resoundingly clear: Our intentions are to keep our core of young guys together,” Pelinka said. “We saw incredible growth and achievement by Rui, Austin — I could go down the list — [Jarred Vanderbilt], [Russell]. We have a lot of great young players and we want to do our best to fit the puzzle together. … Again, without talking specific players, we’ll do our best to keep this group intact and growing and getting better each year.”
The Lakers are also dealing with LeBron James flirting with retirement, which would massively shift their future outlook. However, the four-time MVP is expected to return next season.