With free-agent value rising, Lakers' biggest threat for D'Angelo Russell is obvious

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Nobody on the Los Angeles Lakers roster has been more polarizing this season than D'Angelo Russell. After a bad Western Conference Finals showing last year (and overall playoff inconsistencies in his past), many Lakers fans expected Russell to find a new home over the summer.

Russell ultimately signed a two-year deal with the Lakers, waiving his implied no-trade clause in the process. By doing so, many assumed that Russell was simply being re-signed so he could be shipped to another team at the deadline. That ultimately did not happen, despite all the rumors.

Through all of these rumors and speculation, Russell has played well for the Lakers and has increased his free-agent value as a result. Russell has raised his value above his $18.6 million player option for the 2024-25 season, making it a guarantee that he will opt out of his deal.

Russell told Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype that he would love to continue being with the Lakers but money ultimately talks. Los Angeles will have more competition for Russell this summer and if the team does not offer a favorable deal, the point guard will almost certainly leave. If he does, the biggest threat to sign him away seems obvious.

Spurs are biggest threat to sign D'Angelo Russell away from Lakers

Of all the teams that could be interested in Russell with cap space (with Scotto mentioning San Antonio as one of them), the Spurs make the most sense. Russell and the Spurs are in the perfect intersection where opportunity meets need.

It has been well-documented that the Spurs need a point guard to pair next to Victor Wembanyama. Not giving Wembanyama a true point guard who can help facilitate the offense and space the floor has limited what he can do offensively (and he still already looks like a top-25 player in the league).

There are other options available on the market (such as Tyus Jones) but none have the ceiling that Russell has. As Russell has proven this season, he has the ability to take over games and is good enough to elevate the Spurs into playoff contention with strong regular-season play.

There are still concerns about how his game translates to the playoffs and to be quite honest, if Russell is your team's second-best player then you do not have true title aspirations. But the Spurs are not looking to contend for a title in the next two years, so just getting someone who can raise the floor of the team is important.

It is also a long-term investment for the Spurs. If San Antonio signs Russell to, say, a three-year deal worth $75 million then they could look to flip that in the future. San Antonio is a great spot for Russell to put up great regular-season numbers and also get his play elevated by Wembanyama (in a similar way to how Anthony Davis makes up for some of D'Lo's defensive inefficiencies).

Suddenly, D'Lo could be a key piece of a bigger trade in the future that could net the Spurs a much bigger star. It could be a situation similar to the Donovan Mitchell trade, where Collin Sexton was the main return for the Utah Jazz at the time (although Lauri Markkanen has since changed that narrative).

Russell makes a lot of sense for the Spurs, and the Spurs make a lot of sense for Russell. If D'Lo does leave LA this offseason, don't be surprised to see him on the Lakers' bitter Western Conference foe.