The Los Angeles Lakers sent their fanbase into a frenzy by finalizing a trade that will send D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez’s expiring contract and the No. 27 pick on the night of the 2017 NBA Draft.
The move was selling incredibly low on Russell, who the team drafted No. 2 overall two years ago, but the franchise has bold moves in mind. Part of the allure of the nearly $48 million they were slated to pay Mozgov over the next three years of the huge contract he signed in the opening minutes of free agency last summer. Lopez comes on a much more palatable expiring deal, freeing up around $18 million in cap space next summer.
As coaches like to cliche, “cap space has never won a game.” That’s true, but you know who has won a whole lot of games? LeBron James, and the Lakers are hoping to use their cap space to get him:
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
Wojnarowski reported that sources within the Cavaliers consider it “likely” James leaves for the Lakers or LA Clippers next summer, something the Lakers are clearly hoping they can make happen.
If it works, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka will eventually be exalted for this move. If it doesn’t, and Russell goes on to reach his full potential? It’s the type of gamble that executives lose jobs over.
We’ll see which it is next summer, but this is certainly a ballsy first big move for the front office rookies.
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.