Lakers News: D’Angelo Russell Hoping To Take Advantage Of Leverage This Offseason
D'Angelo Russell, Lakers
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have officially entered the offseason after they were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs by the Denver Nuggets on Monday night. And after a second consecutive elimination at the hands of the Nuggets and only one postseason win since 2021, change appears to be on the horizon in L.A. and one of the major elements of this change could be point guard D’Angelo Russell.

Russell has been the starting point guard for the Lakers for a majority of the last 14 months, when he was dealt to L.A. at the trade deadline in 2023. He joined the team on an expiring contract, then re-signed on a two-year contract last offseason with a player option worth $18.7 million on the second year. And after having his best regular season as a pro athlete, he has a chance to re-enter the free agent market.

The Lakers guard has not yet made a final decision on what he’ll do with the player option, but comments after the Game 5 loss to the Nuggets certainly appear as though he is planning to opt out of the second year of his contract.

“I didn’t say I don’t think about it. When I signed my contract last year, I knew what position I was going to put myself in, so to be in that position now with a little leverage, I’ll try to take advantage of it,” Russell said.

Russell undoubtedly does have leverage over the Lakers. In L.A.’s ideal world, he would opt into the $18.7 million contract for 2024-24, giving the Lakers the ability to trade him for a third star. But, at this point, that seems incredibly unlikely.

This puts Russell in control of his future, and in turn, L.A’s. If he opts out, he can test the market and still choose to return to the Lakers, but L.A. would no longer be able to trade him this offseason and would not have the means to replace him if he leaves given where they stand with their 2024-25 salaries.

There are a number of ways the Russell saga could end this offseason. And in almost every option, Russell is the one with the leverage. How the Lakers approach his offseason can drastically alter what they are able to do to improve their team otherwise.

Darvin Ham unlikely to be back with Lakers

Another major decision that has nothing to do with the salary cap is what the Lakers do at head coach. Darvin Ham’s second season at the helm did not end any better than his first, and all rumors are pointing towards L.A. finding a new head coach this offseason.

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