Since entering the league with the Los Angeles Lakers back in 2015, D’Angelo Russell has always been known as a creative offensive playmaker that could explode at any point without prior notice. With just a single All-Star appearance in his NBA career, it seems as though he has always been just a tier below stardom in recent memory. While he may not quite have lived up to the hype as a former number 2 overall pick, his young career has been a moderate success and he still has plenty of room to grow.
Considering his consistent on-court contributions, one would think D’Lo could have been a potential building block for an NBA franchise. Unfortunately for him, he has never had the proper time necessary to truly sprout with any one team.
After two seasons of sub-stellar but still attention-worthy growth as a baby Laker, he was infamously attached to the atrocious Timofey Mozgov contract in a swap that flew Brook Lopez (and later Kyle Kuzma) into LA in the summer of 2017. He spent the next two seasons in Brooklyn, the second of which bore his lone All-Star appearance to date. The Nets appeared to have a young guard to build their future around.
That was until Kevin Durant became available in the summer of 2019. So, who can blame the Nets for punting on D’Lo’s future potential for KD’s present face of franchise stature? It was a deal that definitely benefitted Brooklyn, but Golden State was a bit of a peculiar fit for the young guard.
Sure, Klay Thompson was recovering from his knee ailments at that time, but where did D’Lo fit into the future fold for the Dubs? Stephen Curry was and still is the franchise floor general. Slotting Curry beside D’Lo was never going to work.
So, regardless of the 23.6 points per game he put up as a member of the Warriors, the team was going through one of its most forgettable seasons at the time. Midway through that 2019-20 season, Bob Myers made the decision to go in another direction. Russell was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves prior to the trade deadline in an exchange that brought Andrew Wiggins to the Bay.
Russell’s time as a Timberwolf was a bit up and down. There were times that he looked the part of a star. There were times that he looked over-stretched as a secondary option behind KAT. There were times when he was even relegated to a bench role. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable divorce between the two sides.
But when one door closes, another opens. And the divorce between Russell and the Timberwolves spawned a new connection between Russell and Laker fans:
Russell’s second stint in the Purple and Gold was largely successful. He was a near-perfect complementary piece next to LeBron and AD and seemed to bring a sense of joy and happiness on the court. This always seemed to have a positive impact on his teammates, as the whole roster exuded much more unity over the course of the second half of the season.
Jump forward to the postseason, and D’Lo was still providing solid contributions and the team was still getting wins. Unfortunately, that momentum came to a screeching halt in the Western Conference Finals. Fans were quick to jump on Russell following his disappearing act in that series, and it really could not have gone much worse for him.
Still, Russell remains a major piece of the Lakers’ puzzle moving forward. If the season goes according to plan, there should be no problems when it comes to bolstering the roster prior to the trade deadline. However, with this possibly being LeBron’s final run with the Lakers, the front office will assuredly be monitoring the current roster and the rosters around the league in pursuit of a title.
While there are other guys on the roster that could definitely come up in trade talks (Rui Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt, Gabe Vincent), there will almost certainly be trade rumors circulating around Russell as the season progresses.
Whether or not he finishes the 2023-2024 season as a Laker is a mystery, but history tells us that this is a front office willing to make changes. If those changes indeed lead to D’Lo’s early departure, here are a few potential trades that could make sense when we look around the NBA landscape today.
3 potential midseason D’Angelo Russell trades for the Lakers:
Lavine has long been a rumored Lakers trade target. The 28-year-old swingman would be a terrific third option this season next to the two superstars, and being that he is currently in the midst of his prime would also slot in next to AD as the future of this franchise.
A straight-up D’Lo for Lavine deal does not work financially, nor would the Bulls even be interested in that, to begin with. Looping in Hachimura makes the money work, but the Bulls would 100% seek draft compensation in addition to those two. Lavine has never been an MVP candidate, but he has been a perennial All-Star (or borderline All-Star) over the past 4-5 seasons.
Adding Lavine should lift the Lakers to new heights, as a 5 man unit of Reaves-Lavine-Vanderbilt-LeBron-AD would be among the tops in town. On the Bulls side, D’Lo can provide much of what Lavine provides in the starting lineup, albeit to a less degree. The real prize for them here is Hachimura as the team has been in need of a quality combo wing in the starting lineup for some time.
Would the bitter rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics make things interesting at the negotiating table? For sure. However, this is a deal that could feasibly benefit both sides of the swap.
On the Lakers side, a LeBron-AD-Porzingis frontcourt seems dreamy. Toss in another season of growth from Austin Reaves and a rise in role players like Vando and Gabe Vincent (who would presumably take D’Lo’s starting spot), and the Lakers may not sulk over the loss of Hachimura so much.
On the Celtics’ side, Hachimura can fill a need at the 4 which the Celtics have had for some time. Jayson Tatum can definitely spare Joe Mazzulla some minutes at that spot, but he seems better suited as a modern-day 3. And while Boston is still home to Malcolm Brogdon and Derrick White, D’Angelo Russell would provide a bit more offensive juice from the guard position.
The Raptors are going to have to make some changes sooner or later. With plenty of vultures waiting in the wings for the new chapter’s initiation in Toronto, Rob Pelinka would be wise to monitor the statuses of the Canadian trade candidates. More specifically, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr would make a lot of sense for the Lakers to pursue.
This is essentially a two-part deal. On one side, the Lakers are trading D’Lo and the two 2nd Round Picks for Gary Trent Jr. On the other side, they are trading Rui Hachimura and the 2029 1st Round Pick for OG Anunoby.
Visions of a Reaves-Trent Jr-Anunoby-LeBron-AD are borderline arousing. Again, the Lakers lose Rui. However, there are no regular viewers of NBA basketball that would choose him over Anunoby. OG was the NBA’s leader in steals a season ago, and Gary Trent Jr mirrors OG’s abilities as a pest on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, they both understand how to score the ball.
That 5 man combination could be the best in basketball.