Lakers have surprising ace in the hole to re-sign D'Angelo Russell this summer

Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans - Play-In Tournament
Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans - Play-In Tournament / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

D'Angelo Russell has had a rollercoaster 2023-24 season with the Los Angeles Lakers that, in the end, wound up increasing his value in the eyes of the team and the fanbase. Once considered a guaranteed trade chip, Russell played his way to staying on the roster and cementing himself as the most important variable in a title run.

It is safe to say that Russell has increased his value above the $18.6 million he is set to make next season if he accepts his player option. Russell will undoubtedly opt out of that deal and pursue a larger deal in free agency.

For many fans, Russell is a must re-sign for the Lakers not just to keep his talent around, but to at least keep the asset on the books in case the door swings open to make a bigger trade later. Russell hasn't really had the best experience this past season with all of the trade rumors, though, so it seems less likely that he will give LA any kind of hometown discount.

Thankfully, the Lakers have one thing working in their favor that may convince Russell to stay in LA: Austin Reaves. In a recent interview spot with, Reaves was asked about Russell's upcoming free agency and shared just how close the two guards are with each other (h/t Hoops Hype).

" I want him to be around. That’s probably my best friend on the team. We hang out off the court and golf a lot together. We’re constantly in communication and play Call of Duty together. He’s been one of my closest friends since I’ve been in the NBA. Obviously, his basketball play speaks for itself with how talented he is and what he can do for our group. We need him to be at our best. When he’s playing at his best is when we’re playing at our best. Anything we can do or I can do to help him stay around, I’m definitely going to try to do that."

Austin Reaves will help the Lakers bring D'Angelo Russell back in free agency

Reaves had a big decision to make last summer when he was restricted free agent for the first time in his career. While it always seemed obvious that the Lakers would match any offersheet that Reaves signed, the undrafted gem actually took less money than expected to be in LA.

It is clear that Reaves wanted to be in Los Angeles with the Lakers and the only hope now is that he can convince Russell to have the same perspective. If the Lakers can bring Russell back on a cheaper-than-expected contract then it would be a massive win for the franchise.

The Lakers are going to need Reaves to work his magic as well as there will be other teams with more cap space that can overpay Russell. The Detroit Pistons, for example, have $60.5 million in projected practical cap space but are not a threat to land any real stars this offseason. Thus, they become the perfect team that could just throw a high salary at Russell simply to spend the cap space.

Heck, even a team like the San Antonio Spurs (who were rumored to be interested in Reaves last summer) makes a lot of sense for Russell. The Spurs need an actual point guard to pair with Victor Wembanyama. Sure, there are other options like Tyus Jones that may cost less, but Russell has the highest ceiling for the Spurs to sell themselves on.

The hope for the Lakers is that Reaves can convince Russell to do the same thing that he did last summer; pass on a slight pay bump from a team like San Antonio to stay in Los Angeles and finish what this group started.

But then again, even before Russell ever signs a new contract there are already rumors of the Lakers exploring a massive trade for an all-star point guard, so he may want to wipe his hands entirely of Los Angeles.