The Los Angeles Lakers’ decision to use point guard D’Angelo Russell as a sweetener to dump Timofey Mozgov’s contract on the Brooklyn Nets was a controversial one. The trade was an admission that the new Lakers front office of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka were giving up on a player their predecessors had selected with the No. 2 pick in the draft just two years ago.
After the Lakers went through the 2017 NBA Draft and made their trade of Russell official, Pelinka spoke to the local media about the decision to send a player the team expected to be it’s next star as recently as 2015 to Brooklyn in exchange for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick.
"We got an All-Star caliber five,” Pelinka told the media of Lopez, also describing his contract (which will end after next season) as not just good, but “amazing salary cap relief.” Pelinka also was happy to get the extra first round pick, which they used to select Kyle Kuzma.
In fact, Pelinka went so far as to say Russell wasn’t really the reason the Lakers made the deal. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News had his full comments:
I asked Rob Pelinka in his press conference if Lonzo's talent made him feel Russell was expendable in Brooklyn trade pic.twitter.com/t3cQ4DLJ6L— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) June 23, 2017
Long story short, the Lakers are pinning their future hopes on that cap space they created by getting rid of Mozgov, and essentially considered losing Russell a necessary cost to get there:
Rob Pelinka says the Lakers will be "sacred" about their cap space for next summer. In other words, look for lots of 1+1 deals— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 23, 2017
If they sign LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins in 2018 their plan of making cap space “sacred” will be viewed as a success. If they don’t, it’s really not that much different than the plan of the regime they replaced.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.