The NBA Draft is a time of smoke and mirrors as everyone talks to everyone about everyone’s intentions but their own.
This can be done when general managers want to bad mouth a player anonymously to get them to drop to them in the draft, or to potentially drive down the value around the league of a player they want by leaking that they’re available for pennies and killing that player’s team’s leverage in talks with other organizations.
That’s not necessarily what’s happening in the case of the rumors the Lakers might trade D’Angelo Russell for a top-12 pick, but that leak certainly didn’t come from the Lakers.
Chad Ford of ESPN — who reported Russell was on the block — went on the radio with Allen Sliwa of ESPN 710 and confirmed that he didn’t get his information about Russell’s availability from the Lakers themselves.
Instead, Ford said he was told by other organizations who claimed the Lakers had called them and offered Russell to try and acquire a pick they could use to select a player in the first round who they had brought in for a workout but was out of their range at No. 2 or No. 28 (via ESPN):
"Calling around to other teams around the league, it sounds like the prospect that [the Lakers] are dangling is to get a pick in that range is D'Angelo Russell. I don't think that they have any deal, or necessarily that they'll pull the trigger, but that's been the exploratory guy that they're looking at to see whether they can get a pick in the right sort of range.
“And again, it's not like there's a done deal with any of those teams or what have you, but they've started that process. Part of that is the due diligence of trying to figure out if they can get another pick in this draft, but that's how they've gotten those players in... It sounds to me from talking to several rival general managers in that range that it's been Russell that's been discussed.”
There is a lot to unpack here, but the most important thing is that this didn’t come from the Lakers. That doesn’t mean the rumor is necessarily untrue, but it does mean there’s at least a chance that these other general managers are trying to drive Russell’s league-wide value down with this leak, making other team’s feel like they didn’t have to offer much for him if all the Lakers wanted was a pick in the top-12.
The Lakers could actually be offering Russell to teams, or they could be trying to gauge his value, or they could be trying to see what it would cost to get another pick in the top-12. None of those things necessarily mean they’re trading him.
Ford also says that the Lakers don’t currently have a trade on the table and might not even pull the trigger. Until either of those things changes, Russell’s status isn’t really something to panic about.