Expensive Lakers Star Could Bolt for Eastern Conference, Says Analyst

D'Angelo Russell

Getty The Los Angeles Lakers face a difficult decision with D'Angelo Russell's future.

The Los Angeles Lakers face several pivotal decisions in free agency including whether to re-sign guard D’Angelo Russell. The former No. 2 pick played a key role in the Lakers turning around their season, but Russell’s struggles against the Nuggets in the Western Conference finals calls into question his long-term fit in LA.

Los Angeles may not be willing to meet Russell’s asking price in free agency which could put the Lakers back in the market for finding a new star to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Bleacher Report put together a list of “one ambitious free-agent target” for each NBA team and has the Raptors making a run at Russell. Toronto could be searching for a new guard if Fred VanVleet departs in free agency.

“Ideally, the Toronto Raptors will bring back opt-out candidate Fred VanVleet for less than $30 million per season on a new deal,” Bleacher Report detailed on May 27, 2023. “But if he expresses a desire to change venues, Toronto could work out a rare double sign-and-trade with the Los Angeles Lakers to land FVV’s replacement.

“D’Angelo Russell has been part of such an exchange before, when he came to the Golden State Warriors in a double S-and-T for Kevin Durant. If all parties involved agree and find ways to make the money work, Russell could wind up in Toronto, giving the Raptors the conventional pick-and-roll operator they’ve long lacked.”

Lakers Rumors: LA Does Not Plan to Sign D’Angelo Russell to His Max Number of a 2-Year, $67.5 Million Contract

Russell just completed a four-year, $117 million contract and is unlikely to find a similar deal in free agency. According to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer, Russell was seeking a new contract with the Timberwolves “worth upward of $100 million over four years” prior to being traded to the Lakers. Los Angeles can sign Russell to a two-year, $67.5 million contract extension, but the team does not plan to reach this number, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

“Russell is eligible to sign a two-year, $67.5 million extension by June 30, which the Lakers will not pursue at the max number, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN,” McMenamin wrote on May 26. “And the market could be flat for the 27-year-old Russell, as the teams with that type of cap space this summer — Houston, San Antonio, Utah, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Detroit and Indiana — are either still in rebuild mode or already filled at the position.”

The Lakers May Not Be Able to Sign a Replacement If They Let D’Angelo Russell Walk

During conversations with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney, one Western Conference executive noted back in March that the Lakers may “overpay” to keep Russell. A lot has changed since the trade deadline moves were first made, including Russell getting benched versus Denver during the Western Conference finals.

“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 league exec said back in March. “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.”

Los Angeles can have as much as $29.5 million in cap space, per Spotrac, but this number will begin to shrink if the team is able to successfully re-sign their own free agents like Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura. Essentially, it could be the Lakers re-signing Russell or getting nothing in return as their salary cap room begins to contract.

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