The biggest personnel question facing the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, other than whether LeBron James can actually retire, is whether guard D’Angelo Russell will return.
He was perhaps the most impactful player they traded for mid-season, and he did very well in 17 regular-season games with them, collecting 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per game while shooting 48.4% overall and 41.4% from 3-point range.
But he was inconsistent in the playoffs and downright bad in the Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. It got to the point where head coach Darvin Ham brought him off the bench in Game 4.
Unless the Lakers fully intend to seek a bigger name at point guard, they will likely look to keep Russell, who will be a free agent this summer, on a new contract. But they won’t pay him top dollar.
“Russell is eligible to sign a two-year, $67.5 million extension by June 30, which the Lakers will not pursue to the fullest, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.”
But one thing that could help the Lakers is the fact that there may not be a big market for him elsewhere.
“And the market could be flat for Russell, 27, because teams with that kind of cap space this summer — Houston, San Antonio, Utah, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Detroit and Indiana — are still in rebuilding mode or already filled in the post.
Absent a big problem for someone like Kyrie Irving, LA will definitely need Russell’s ball handling, facilitation and scoring abilities to reduce James’ workload, especially during the season. regular.
The Lakers saw Russell as a ‘positive presence’
Even when he wasn’t playing well, Russell seemed to have a positive attitude, as he cheered on his teammates from the bench. This would have led the team to see him in a positive light.
Via Yahoo Sports:
“Then there’s the issue of Russell, who was looking for a new contract worth more than $100 million over four years when he was with the Timberwolves, sources said,” Fischer wrote. “After an inconsistent playoff run, it’s hard to imagine many bidders for Russell at this price. It could definitely benefit the Lakers if they intend to retain him. He was the headliner, after all, of Los Angeles’ return from February’s three-team trade that sent a first-round pick on top of Russell Westbrook’s expiring salary, and also scored [Malik] Beasley and [Jarred] Vanderbilt. Russell, however, doesn’t bring head coach Darvin Ham’s favorite defensive toughness. And the Lakers might be wise to explore signing and trade scenarios that could bring back a player who more closely matches that roster.
“But Russell was also seen as a positive presence around the Lakers, sources said. Even as his time watching from the bench increased, he was still celebrating the 3-point celebration of the team when his teammates connected deep. Maybe a short-term deal could bring Russell closer to the average annual value he was supposed to be looking for. A two-year deal worth around $40 million dollars could give Russell his wealth and also leave the Lakers with a mobile contract if they want that kind of flexibility.
It remains to be seen if Russell is genuinely interested in staying with the Lakers, the team that originally drafted him as the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
The story originally appeared on LeBron Wire