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Warriors acquiring D’Angelo Russell from Nets in sign-and-trade

D’Angelo Russell was a free agent option for the Lakers, but now the only max player left is Kawhi Leonard.

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

In a stunning turn of events, Los Angeles Lakers free agent target D’Angelo Russell is headed to the Golden State Warriors in a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Lakers had interest in Russell and were reportedly trying to set up a meeting with their former No. 2 overall pick, but they also reportedly didn’t plan to offer him a full max contract. Golden State did so, and weren’t going to make Russell wait on Kawhi Leonard’s decision — a decision that likely won’t come for a day or two, at least — and thus were able to secure the sweet-shooting guard’s services.

This removes the last remaining star-adjacent backup plan for the Lakers from the market. Even a team with just Anthony Davis, LeBron James and role players would be good, but it’s still for all intents and purposes Leonard or bust now for the Lakers in free agency.

That’s a sensible gamble for the Lakers, who do still very much appear to be in on Leonard. Russell would have been a helpful pickup for the team, but any team with cap room to add possibly the best player in the NBA right now in Leonard would wait to see how that played out before making other moves.

Is this a choice that could blow up in the Lakers’ face as some of their other targets continue to fly of the board? Sure, in some senses, but at the same time, hindsight is 20/20. If this doesn’t work out, that’s obviously not good for the team, but they’re gambling that they can assemble maybe the best big three ever right now, and even if they were entering the market on the first day of free agency, a lot of players got overpaid on day one. Is that really a market you want the team rushing into? Or would they be better off waiting on Leonard and seeing if some bargains are available once everyone else is spent out?

Your answer likely depends on how good of a shot you feel the Lakers have with Leonard, and the front office undoubtedly would make this plan look a lot better if they close that deal. But regardless of what happens, while this might be a disappointing outcome for the first day of free agency, the Lakers still have a chance to hit a home run in July. And if they can’t, approximately $32 million in cap space should give them at least a couple of solid options to add depth around Davis and James.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. Here is a list of every free agent credibly connected to the Lakers so far. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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