It looks like the Los Angeles Lakers have a familiar name atop their free agency wish list.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers have serious interest in bringing back former draft pick D’Angelo Russell. He’s coming off his first All-Star campaign after leading the Brooklyn Nets to a playoff berth this past season. However, with reports that Brooklyn has interest in acquiring Kyrie Irving in free agency, Russell will likely be left to test the waters this summer.
“The Lakers have some options here, but D’Angelo Russell is at the top of that list,” Wojnarowski said.
Following Wojnarowski’s report, Fred Roggin of NBC Los Angeles has reported that the Lakers have indeed set up a meeting with Russell.
Russell was selected as the Lakers’ point guard of the future with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He spent his short time in Los Angeles as former head coach Byron Scott’s whipping boy and at the center of a controversy due to him recording a conversation regarding Nick Young’s infidelities as a prank. He was widely criticized and blasted by the media for being immature as a result of the incident.
It didn’t take long for Russell to find his way out of Los Angeles as Magic Johnson — head of basketball operations in 2017 — traded the young point guard along with Timofey Mozgov to the Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers would then draft Russell’s successor — Lonzo Ball — only to recently trade him to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Anthony Davis trade package.
At just 23 years old and coming off a campaign in which he averaged 21.1 points and 7.0 assists per game on an effective 36.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc as the clear-cut No. 1 option on a playoff team, Russell won’t have any shortage of suitors on the free agency market. The Nets remain very much in play to re-sign their starting point guard, although their priorities remain on signing free agents Irving and Kevin Durant to max-level deals.
Assuming he signs with another team, Russell would be eligible for a four-year contract worth $27 million annually.
Although the Lakers are very much short on cap space — they have just six players under contract and will only have between $23.7M–$27.7M available — pursuing a younger and cheaper Russell might be a better alternative than signing established veteran point guards such as Irving or Kemba Walker.
Based upon Woj’s report, it looks like the Lakers feel the same way as they enter free agency looking for a third star to team up with Davis and LeBron James.
If the Lakers have it their way in free agency, Russell will be that third star to team up with two of the best players in the NBA.