D’Angelo Russell saw his second stint with the Los Angeles Lakers go from the best of times to the worst of times very quickly.
Russell started out being an extremely impactful piece of L.A.’s puzzle after getting acquired at the NBA Trade Deadline, averaging 17.4 points on 48.4 percent shooting from the field and 41.4 percent shooting from three. He also chipped in 6.1 assists per game throughout 17 regular season outings.
Unfortunately, when it mattered most, Russell floundered in the Western Conference Finals and got benched.
Russell was so bad against the Denver Nuggets, in fact, that both Nuggets players and coaches openly mocked him.
Russell can theoretically sign a two-year, $67.5 million extension with the Lakers by the end of next month, but according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, L.A. “will not pursue [him] at the max number.”
Where does that leave Russell, who at one point was seeking $25 million annually when he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this year? It would appear somewhere other than Los Angeles.
According to Sports Illustrated, four teams have emerged as clear frontrunners to steal Russell from L.A.
“The [Charlotte] Hornets have the shortest odds to sign Russell at +300 followed by the [Atlanta] Hawks (+400), [Memphis] Grizzlies (+500) and [Dallas] Mavericks (+600).”
With G-League sensation Scoot Henderson and Alabama star Brandon Miller available in the 2023 NBA Draft, it’s unclear why Charlotte would need someone of Russell’s skillset.
The same could be said for the Hawks, too. Russell only makes sense in Atlanta if Trae Young gets traded.
Given that Young has recently been linked to trade rumors with four teams, though – maybe that is a scenario the front office is preparing for.
Memphis makes some sense. The Grizzlies face an uncertain future with Ja Morant, and even if their superstar does end up avoiding a lengthy suspension, Russell should theoretically be able to play well off him offensively.
Defensively Morant and Russell would be a disaster together, though.
Finally, the Mavericks would be a logical destination for Russell if it came in a sign-and-trade of some sort involving Kyrie Irving. L.A. has made its interest in Irving no secret in recent days. Ditto for LeBron James, who prefers him to Young.
On Saturday morning the Mavericks tried to tell Tim Cato of The Athletic that they wouldn’t help Irving facilitate a sign-and-trade.
It will be interesting to call their bluff and see if they would really prefer to be left with nothing if Irving opts to head to Los Angeles.
Big picture, it will be interesting to see what the Lakers decide to do with Russell.
The photos speak for themselves. https://t.co/rLXHFv2gJE
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 27, 2023
It is hard to see a scenario where the 27-year-old returns to L.A. barring him taking a massive pay cut.
Where will Russell ultimately be playing come the 2023-24 NBA season? Time will tell.