The Los Angeles Lakers turned around their season, but the franchise may still have changes to make this offseason given how overmatched the team has looked against the Denver Nuggets. Heading into the offseason, all eyes are on D’Angelo Russell as the star guard heads into free agency.
Russell played a crucial role in helping the Lakers make a deep postseason push, but the guard has struggled mightily to contribute against Denver. It was once a near certainty that Los Angeles would re-sign Russell, but his recent playoff performance could put this deal in jeopardy.
During the first three games of the Western Conference finals, Russell has scored a combined 21 points, averaging seven points per game. Russell has been dismal from behind the arc shooting just two-of-14 from long range hitting a disappointing 14.2% of his three-point attempts. For a player with a $31.3 million salary, the Lakers should have serious questions about giving Russell a lucrative long-term deal.
Lakers Rumors: D’Angelo Russell’s Future with LA Is ‘Far More Complicated’ After Nuggets Series
The Athletic’s Sam Amick made an argument that Russell should not only be benched, but his long-term future with the Lakers also needs to be re-evaluated. Unless Los Angeles is able to pull off a miracle in the series, Amick noted that Russell’s free agency is now “far more complicated” following his shaky performance against the Nuggets.
“There’s a strong argument to be made that Russell should have lost his starting job early on in this series, as it was quickly evident the Nuggets’ plan of attacking him on the defensive end was sparking their historically good offense,” Amick wrote on May 22, 2023. “Add in the fact that Russell has been unable to provide the scoring punch that made him such a good fit in these past few months, and it’s been the kind of unmitigated disaster that will likely make free-agency discussions with the Lakers far more complicated than most had expected just a few weeks ago.”
Lakers News: Could LA Make a Push for Kyrie Irving Over D’Angelo Russell?
Prior to the playoffs, the widespread expectation was the Lakers were poised to re-sign Russell to a long-term deal. The question for the Lakers to answer is who the team would be able to land in place of Russell.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst continues to mention Los Angeles as a possible landing spot for Kyrie Irving. Back in March, one Western Conference executive told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney that the Lakers will “overpay” to keep Russell in LA.
“They are going to try to keep as many of those young guys as they can keep because that is why they went ahead and made all those moves to begin with—they wanted young assets so they can start having the basis of a team beyond LeBron,” the NBA exec said at the time. “Now, you have to pay D’Angelo Russell, and that is going to be an overpay, almost certainly it will. The fact that there is not much of a free-agent market out there for him, that there are no real buyers, that could help them. But they’ll take care of him.”