The trade deadline featured a number of reunions, including the Los Angeles Lakers who brought back D’Angelo Russell in a blockbuster three-team deal that sent Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz.
The Lakers originally selected Russell No. 2 overall in the 2015 NBA Draft but shipped him out just two seasons later in a cap-clearing move to the Brooklyn Nets. Russell made the All-Star team with the Nets but has since bounced around to the Golden State Warriors and most recently the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Although Russell is a talented scoring guard, he and the Timberwolves were unable to agree to an extension which makes him an unrestricted free agent following the 2022-23 season. While Los Angeles could potentially part ways with Russell, Rob Pelinka acknowledged that the franchise may be looking at him as a long-term piece, via Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group:
“I think both Magic (Johnson) and I were both really intrigued early with the incredible talent that D’Angelo had, and now you have a mix of the talent, the shooting, the playmaking, IQ, plus the growth he’s been able to gather as a player and I think it makes him really ideally suited,” Pelinka said. “We do see him not just as a player that’s a short-term rental.”
Still only 26 years old, there’s reason to believe that Russell can improve as a player which certainly makes him an intriguing building block for the Lakers going forward. While he may be a poor defender, Russell is a legitimate threat from deep who also gives Los Angeles another pick-and-roll ballhandler outside of LeBron James.
While Russell is considered an expiring contract, the Lakers do own his Bird Rights which means they will be able to sign him to more money and years than another team could in free agency. They also still can sign him to a two-year extension between now and the start of free agency.
It remains to be seen what the guard’s market looks like, but should he play well down the stretch the purple and gold will need to think hard about locking him up for the foreseeable future.
D’Angelo Russell thinks of Kobe Bryant when he reflect on first Lakers tenure
Russell’s first stint with the Lakers didn’t quite go according to plan as they were a rebuilding franchise who were losing games at an alarming pace. However, Russell did get an opportunity to learn from one of the greats in Kobe Bryant.
Regarding Bryant, Russell said he’s all he thinks about when reflecting on his first couple of years in Los Angeles.
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