Lakers’ Trade Market for Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell Revealed Amid Mounting Frustrations

LeBron James, D'Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Lakers

Getty (From left) Austin Reaves, LeBron James and D'Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers started D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves together at the start of the season. Their offense was fine but their point-of-attack defense suffered which prompted coach Darvin Ham to abandon the idea.

Russell remained in the starting lineup. Reaves came off the bench. Fast forward to New Year, Reaves and Russell switched roles.

Their lack of defined roles and consistent rotation has become the root of frustrations and turmoil within the team.

“There’s a lot of people very frustrated, a lot of agents calling the front office frustrated about their guys not getting the right opportunities,” Yahoo Sports’ NBA insider Jake Fischer said on the January 5 episode of the “No Cap Room” podcast.

Trade Market for Lakers Backcourt Duo

Between Russell and Reaves, it is obvious who the Lakers want to keep as the February 8 trade deadline approaches. But oftentimes, the trade market dictates players’ futures.

“And if you do want to look at potential trade scenarios the strategy of like resigning D’Angelo Russell to a theoretical tradable salary at $20 million, I’m not hearing from my calls around the league a ton of interest in that trade chip  coming back,” Fischer said.

Russell’s poor outing last spring made him a net negative asset for the Lakers. In contrast, Reaves’ rise made him the Lakers’ best trade chip outside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

“I don’t really know what the Lakers are going to be able to do to upgrade this team if they’re not sending Austin Reaves out the door which of course they don’t want to do that. He’s their third-best player,” Fischer said.

With 15 games left before the February 8 trade deadline, the Lakers still have time to evaluate their roster. But if the calendar flips to February and they are still far from contention, the Lakers ownership and front office will have to make hard choices.

Darvin Ham Is ‘Not the Guy’

After The Athletic reported a deepening disconnect between Ham and the Lakers players, Fischer added more fuel to the fire.

“There’s just a lot of chatter from people around the organization that he’s [Darvin Ham] not the guy that’s gonna be able to get this thing over the hump,” Fischer said on the “Ball Don’t Lie” podcast. The noise is very loud, there’s a lot of people very frustrated.”

Ham stood his ground and belied the rumors. He adamantly said he’s aligned with the Lakers ownership and the front office.

The first-time head coach is in the second season of a four-year deal with the Lakers.

Lakers Will Not Trade LeBron James

LeBron James isn’t going anywhere this season despite openly criticizing the Lakers as a team very far from title contention.

“I … wouldn’t spend too much energy dreaming up LeBron James trade scenarios,” NBA insider Marc Stein wrote in his January 8 Substack newsletter. “There is no tangible evidence making the rounds to suggest — irrespective of his ‘We just suck right now’ proclamation after Friday night’s home loss to Memphis — that the 39-year-old has a shred of interest in trying to force a trade before next month’s trade deadline.”

James can become a free agent after this season if he does not pick up his $51.4 million player option for next season. The Lakers are risking losing him without getting anything in return.

James’ future hinges on how the Lakers’ season ends and where will his son, Bronny, go in June’s NBA Draft.