With less than 48 hours before the start of the 2017 NBA Draft, we’ve seen our first big domino fall.
As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Lakers have traded former No. 2 Overall pick D’Angelo Russell and center Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for center Brook Lopez and the No. 27 Overall pick in this year’s draft.
For the Lakers, this is longer-term play to clear space for Paul George and LeBron James pursuit. Lonzo Ball on way at No.2 https://t.co/KxfdEuAUO0
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 20, 2017
This represents a potentially seismic shift for both franchises. Let’s analyze how each team fared:
Though Brooklyn didn’t have a lottery pick, it was able to acquire a young asset on a manageable contract. There are some concerns about Russell. Folks in LA questioned his maturity level. Russell struggled both finishing at the rim and versus more athletic players. There are also some lingering knee issues that may become a problem down the line. With that said, he’s only 21 years of age. His rookie season came during the bizarre Kobe Bryant farewell appreciation tour. We can throw that out in terms of a developmental standpoint.
Last year, Russell averaged 15.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 3.5 RPG. He shot 40.5-percent from the field and 35.2-percent from beyond the arc. While the numbers don’t overly suggest this claim, Russell’s an exceptionally talented passer. He’s also equipped with a good feel for the game. There were times in which Russell took games over with his ability to score from anywhere on the court. He’s particularly lethal when shooting threes off the dribble.
Brooklyn did well to snag a promising guard. It could be a case where Russell simply needed a change of scenery. Head coach Kenny Atkinson will mesh well with Russell’s style of play. While the Nets did unload Lopez’s contract, it took on the gigantic Mozgov deal. They’ll owe the center $54 million over the next three years. That’s a considerable amount of money for what likely will be a backup big man.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Russell era in Los Angeles is officially over. The combo guard never fully endeared himself to Laker Nation — especially after the whole fiasco involving Nick Young. At times, his lackadaisical attitude on the court caused some issues — as did his lack of athleticism. With local legend Lonzo Ball sitting right there for the Lakers to snag at No. 2 in Thursday’s draft, Russell was deemed expendable.
Landing the No. 27 pick offers the Lakers yet another asset. It can be used to bolster their already preexisting young core. Additionally, it can be flipped in a deal for another player. There are two significant facets in this deal. For one, Lopez gives the Lakers a legitimate big man in the post. His $22.6 million contract also comes off the books after this season — thus opening up more cap space. Speaking of cap space, the Lakers got rid of the horrific Mozgov deal — which would’ve strapped them for $48 million the next few years.
Simply put, the Lakers garnered some much-needed flexibility with this move.
Winner Of The Trade: Lakers
Magic Johnson’s first big move within the front office was a success. He somehow got the Nets to take on the Mozgov deal. While losing Russell may be tough, a better version in Ball likely will be a part of the team within the next few days. This deal is also a play for the future — as the Lakers will have ample cap space going forward.
Even if LA trades for Paul George before the season starts, it appears as if they’ll have enough money to sign two max free agents next season (in addition to George). In other words…it’s a very fascinating time to be a Lakers fan right now.
Image Sources: Bleacher Report, Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports, Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports