After less than 24 hours of rumors over whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers would trade D’Angelo Russell, the team has made a decision. The Lakers have sent Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
This move is clearly motivated in part for the opportunity to shed Mozgov’s salary. The Lakers’ biggest free agency signing of the 2016 offseason was slated to make nearly $48 million over the next three years of the gargantuan contract he signed in the opening minutes of free agency.
Instead the Lakers will take on Lopez, who makes $22.6 million this season but whose salary comes off the books after that.
The bigger deal here is the Lakers essentially trading Russell for the 27th pick in order to shed two years of Mozgov’s salary. That transaction is selling incredibly low on a promising young player selected second overall just two short years ago, although there have been essentially non-stop rumblings about his maturity issues from around the team since mid-way through his first season.
The immediate read here is that the Lakers value the extra $18 million in cap space next summer more than Russell’s potential as the new front office of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka attempts to make a big splash. This was a bold, decisive, ballsy move from that tandem, and one that will look incredibly stupid if Russell pans out and they fail to sign anyone next offseason.
For the Lakers, this is longer-term play to clear space for Paul George and LeBron James pursuit. Lonzo Ball on way at No.2 https://t.co/KxfdEuAUO0— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 20, 2017
If they get some combination of LeBron James/Paul George/some other superstar combination to team up in Los Angeles next summer, people will forget all about Russell. That’s a gutsy call to make, we’ll see if it works out for them.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to our episode on the trade below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.