Attempted D'Angelo Russell trade could be ideal outcome for everyone involved

The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly engaged in a three-team trade centered around D'Angelo Russell in February. It's time to revisit those discussions.
Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans - Play-In Tournament
Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans - Play-In Tournament / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

Los Angeles Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell has a career-altering decision to make this offseason. With a player option of $18,692,307 and an obscure list of options in free agency, Russell must decide whether he's going to return to Los Angeles or gamble on the open market.

As Russell and the Lakers ponder the next step, an attempted trade from earlier in the season may be the key to both sides ending up in the best possible situation.

Russell put together a strong regular season for the Lakers, averaging 18.0 points, 6.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.0 three-point field goals made per game. Despite his solid play, he was at the heart of a number of trade rumors, and his lackluster postseason has added new fuel to that fire.

According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers were actually in negotiations with the Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets earlier this season on a three-team trade that would've seen Dejounte Murray end up in Los Angeles and Russell return to Brooklyn.

"Multiple sources say that before trading for Dennis Schröder, the Brooklyn Nets were in talks with the Lakers for Russell (with L.A. getting Dejounte Murray from the Atlanta Hawks). That negotiation died between the Lakers and Hawks, but the Nets still need a starting-caliber guard."

The Hawks were seemingly looking for more than the Lakers were willing to offer, but much has changed since February.

D'Angelo Russell to the Nets Dejounte Murray to the Lakers?

Atlanta finished the 2023-24 regular season at 36-46. It still managed to qualify for the Play-In Tournament, but a 131-116 road loss to the 39-43 Chicago Bulls brought a disappointing season to a devastating end.

The Hawks are now at the heart of countless trade rumors, with both Murray and All-NBA point guard Trae Young being linked to the Lakers, among other franchises.

As the Nets look for a new starting point guard and the Hawks explore their options on both the Murray and Young fronts, Russell once again enters the picture.

Russell became an All-Star with the Nets in 2019, leading the team to 42 wins and its first postseason appearance in four years. Kenny Atkinson is no longer the head coach in Brooklyn, but the success that Russell experienced with the organization remains relevant.

Returning to the home of that career-year and joining forces with the likes of Mikal Bridges and Cam Thomas could be a career-redefining option for him.

As for the Lakers, revisiting that potential three-team trade could help fill the void that the team is clearly eager to address. Incessant trade rumors have linked Los Angeles to the likes of Murray, Young, and Donovan Mitchell, all of whom are guards with the ability to score and facilitate.

While Mitchell is likely out of the picture following the Cleveland Cavaliers' firing of J.B. Bickerstaff, Murray—and perhaps Young—are still strong options to consider.

Murray, 27, has been named an All-Star, as well as an All-Defense honoree, at the peaks of his eight-year NBA career. He's highly regarded as a two-way player who can score, facilitate, and defend at levels that would make him a starter and borderline All-Star on any roster.

Standing at 6'5" with a 6'10" wingspan, Murray would be an ideal complement to Lakers guard Austin Reaves, who is also 6'5" in height, but has a 6'6.25" wingspan.

While Reaves would likely need to be included in a trade for Young, Pincus reports that the Lakers would prefer not to part ways with him. That makes Murray an even more ideal target, as his cap hit of just under $25.5 million makes his salary easier to match without including Reaves in the deal.

In terms of what the trade would mean for the Lakers, look no further than what Murray was able to do with Young out of the lineup this season.

Murray finished the 2023-24 campaign with averages of 22.5 points, 6.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 2.6 three-point field goals made. He did so while shooting a commendable .459/.353/.794, thus improving his three-point field goal percentage for the third consecutive season.

Across the 28 games that Murray played without Young, those numbers skyrocketed to 25.1 points, 9.1 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 3.3 three-point field goals made per contest.

Despite the increased volume, Murray's efficiency remained in the realm of his full season statistics, even increasing in one respect at .442/.372/.788.

In addition to improving his individual play without Young, Murray led Atlanta to its best success of the 2023-24 season. The Hawks were 22-32 when Young played, but managed to go 14-14 when Murray was active but Young was not—a jump in win percentage from .407 to .500.

As the Lakers weigh their options in free agency, the NBA Draft, and the trade market, those type of facts are why Murray should be near the top of their list of preferred options.

Thankfully, the Lakers have a way to bring Murray to Los Angeles—it may just require a few tweaks to get the job done. That all begins with revisiting the trade talks that ultimately fell apart near the 2024 NBA trade deadline.

If the trade ultimately goes through, both Russell and the Lakers could end up in better situations heading into the 2024-25 season.