After the Anthony Davis trade while also being able to retain a max-contract slot, the Los Angeles Lakers are going big fish hunting in free agency beginning on June 30.
They have been linked to just about every top free agent including Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker as they search for a third All-Star player to pair with Davis and LeBron James.
Even if they don’t get one of those four players, the Lakers still have a lot of other options to use their $32 million in cap space on.
One of those options — as surprising as it sounds — is a reunion with D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers traded Russell to the Brooklyn Nets just two years ago and he has since developed into an All-Star-caliber player.
Russell is currently a restricted free agent but with the Nets prioritizing Irving and Kevin Durant, there is a good chance they wind up renouncing him to clear up the necessary cap space.
It appears the team’s interest in Russell is real and not just noise as according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, they have secured a free agency meeting with the 23-year-old:
The Los Angeles Lakers reached out to D'Angelo Russell's agents at CAA — Austin Brown and Aaron Mintz — to set up a meeting with the All-Star guard, league sources tell ESPN. The Lakers and Russell share a mutual interest in a reunion. Lakers have the cap space to sign him.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2019
Russell’s max salary for the 2019-20 NBA season would be slightly above $27 million, but with his market beyond the Nets currently being uncertain, the Lakers could potentially get him for less than that. If that is the case, then they would be able to retain some cap space to add another solid role player, which will help fill out a roster that will have plenty of star power but lacks depth at the moment.
Lakers fans may remember Russell for his inconsistent play on the court and immaturity, but he has improved on both of those things since leaving Los Angeles.
Russell is coming off a career season in which he averaged 21.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game and even the man who traded him, Magic Johnson, recently admitted that he has matured over the past two seasons and would be a great addition for the Lakers.
Leonard is obviously the top priority for the Lakers at the beginning of free agency, but the Lakers even meeting with Russell could signify they believe Leonard is signing elsewhere and they need to begin looking at other options.