When Magic Johnson took over as Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations, his first big move was trading D’Angelo Russell — who was viewed by many as a promising young player for the organization — to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Lakers selected Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick at the 2017 NBA Draft to replace Russell at point guard shortly after and Johnson questioned the latter’s leadership on his way out the door.
Russell has since thrived with the Nets, being named an All-Star for the first time during the 2018-19 NBA season and leading them to the 2019 NBA playoffs while the Lakers still have yet to play one in six seasons.
The 23-year-old recently commented on being traded from the Lakers to the Nets, essentially saying that he saw the writing on the wall before it happened, according to Ian Begley of ESPN:
“I just knew it was kind of going that way [toward a separation from the Lakers],” Russell said. “In this league, when front offices change, you kind of don’t have a feel for your future, you know what I’m saying?”
Johnson has since resigned as president of basketball operations and while it is easy to criticize the moves he made such as trading Russell and not re-signing Julius Randle in free agency, he also did some good things such as draft Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart while signing LeBron James.
The Russell trade cannot fully be judged until this offseason as Johnson’s main motivation for making the deal was to clear up cap space by ridding the Lakers of Timofey Mozgov’s four-year, $64 million deal.
If the Lakers can get another All-Star to join James and their young core this summer, then it is hard not to consider trading Russell a success for both the Nets and the Lakers.