The Los Angeles Lakers have to decide what they want to do with D’Angelo Russell this summer.
At one point after the NBA Trade Deadline, the 27-year-old seemed a lock to receive a massive contract from L.A. in the offseason. Maybe not the four-year, $100+ million extension he was seeking back when he was still with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but something sizeable nevertheless.
Then the playoffs hapcpened.
Russell went from averaging 17.4 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting from the field and 41.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the regular season, to 6.3 points per game on 32.3 percent from the field and 13.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the Western Conference Finals.
Russell’s play against the Denver Nuggets was so poor that L.A. was forced to bench him for Game 4 of the series.
In the aftermath, between LeBron James’ feelings towards him and his awful showing in the postseason, it became clear that Russell would likely be on the move this summer.
According to Bleacher Report, the Toronto Raptors are a team to watch.
“Ideally, the Toronto Raptors will bring back opt-out candidate Fred VanVleet for less than $30 million per season on a new deal,” the report read.
“But if he expresses a desire to change venues, Toronto could work out a rare double sign-and-trade with the Los Angeles Lakers to land FVV’s replacement. D’Angelo Russell has been part of such an exchange before when he came to the Golden State Warriors in a double S-and-T for Kevin Durant.
“If all parties involved agree and find ways to make the money work, Russell could wind up in Toronto, giving the Raptors the conventional pick-and-roll operator they’ve long lacked.”
It’s worth remembering, Shams Charania of The Athletic also cited L.A. as a team to keep an eye on for VanVleet just a week ago.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) May 25, 2023
“I think Kyrie Irving and Fred VanVleet have to be at the top of the list for the Lakers this offseason,” Charania said.
Irving has obviously also been linked to the Lakers a lot in recent days. So much so, in fact, that the Dallas Mavericks actively came out this weekend and try to put out the growing fire.
“While we await a clear indication about the Lakers’ intentions there, with no verifiable signal to date that pursuing Irving is among their offseason priorities, league sources say that the Mavericks would have no interest in a sign-and-trade with the Lakers that features D’Angelo Russell as the primary Dallas-bound player,” NBA insider Marc Stein wrote.
“All indications are that the Mavericks remain intent on re-signing Irving.”
In addition to that, Tim Cato of The Athletic also struck a similar note this week.
“It requires tact, but the Mavs should simply tell Irving upfront what contract they would like for him to re-sign, and while he certainly has the right to leave, they don’t plan to assist any other team in acquiring him,” he wrote.
“They have the most appealing offer.”
All of that being said, there is a reason there’s so much smoke here. It’s because a little fire is brewing. Irving clearly wants to come to the Lakers and play alongside James.
And the interest is mutual.
Olivia Dunne’s outfit stole the show at the Taylor Swift concert. https://t.co/uEVcnN5iUB
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 29, 2023
The reason the Mavericks are pushing back so hard here is because they know something legit is brewing.
One way or the other, if the Lakers move on from Russell, it will be because they have another point guard to replace him with. And at the moment, the best options available are VanVleet or Irving.
Will the Lakers be able to make something happen with either the Raptors or Mavs this summer? An answer one way or the other will present itself over the next few months.