Most people were shocked when it was announced that the Los Angeles Lakers had traded D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. They moved arguably their most promising young player in what was effectively a salary dump of Timofey Mozgov’s gargantuan contract.
But according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, trading Russell in such a move was not the Lakers’ first choice:
The Lakers, if they deal Julius Randle in addition to D’Angelo Russell, could end up without at least two of their high draft picks to squeeze out two max salary slots next summer; they dangled an unprotected first-round pick in front of every team with cap room to dump one of the toxic Timofey Mozgov/Luol Deng deals, sources say, and finding no takers, finally flipped Russell and Mozgov to Brooklyn.
It’s at least a little promising that the Lakers didn’t immediately try to trade Russell. But it’s also no surprise that teams didn’t want to take on those contracts for future picks.
We know that the Lakers were effectively keeping the second overall pick (and therefore Lonzo Ball) off the table. The first future pick they could trade then was their 2020 first-round pick. With speculation that Paul George is coming to LA and other stars may join him, most teams are not going to bank on that pick being worthy of taking on a lot of salary in return.
Meanwhile, the issue still remains that the Lakers sold low on D’Angelo Russell in order to get rid of a contract that they could have held on to at least until the trade deadline, if not the next offseason.