Lakers' biggest threat to steal D'Angelo Russell is revealed

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets / Mike Stobe/GettyImages

Leading up to the 2024 NBA trade deadline it really did feel like the Los Angeles Lakers were going to trade D'Angelo Russell. After all, Russell waived his implied no-trade clause when re-signing with the team over the summer.

That ultimately did not happen as Russell stepped up his play and made himself indispensable for the purple and gold. The Lakers could not find a trade package that made sense, and quite frankly, the team was probably better off keeping Russell around.

Russell has been a massive part of the Lakers' success this season and he is the biggest x-factor between the team getting bounced in the play-in and making a run at the NBA Finals. Russell himself certainly wants to go on a deep run not just for team success, but to up his value in free agency as well.

With a player option, Russell has the ability to opt-out and test the markets after a great season for LA. And when he inevitably does, the Lakers now know who their biggest competition is going to be thanks to Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

"Orlando is the team that—talking to people with the Lakers, talking to people outside the Lakers—Orlando is the team that probably gives them the most concern in terms of a potential suitor."

Orlando Magic revealed as biggest threat to steal D'Angelo Russell from Lakers

The Magic make a lot of sense for D'Lo on paper and if Russell is simply trying to chase the biggest payday this offseason then that might be where he ends up. Among the teams that actually have cap space this offseason, Orlando is the most intriguing.

Orlando has a good core led by Paolo Banchero. As Paolo and the young core continue to get better the Magic could actually be in a position to contend in the next few years. The one thing that Orlando could use this offseason is a scoring point guard who can replace Markelle Fultz's place in the rotation. Russell is that.

The Magic have the money to spend and there really are not many other free agents that fit what they need to add. Signing Klay Thompson would be a mistake and Pascal Siakam will probably end up getting a new deal in Indiana after being traded (and even if he doesn't, he would be a bad signing for Orlando).

Sure there are veterans like DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday (player option) but they do not really fit the window the Magic have. Orlando is an up-incoming team and DeRozan and Holiday's values are only going to get worse with time.

The Magic need someone who is good now, is not going to regress any time soon, and can be a contract figure that is included in a future trade package. Russell is all of those things. D'Lo can give the Magic quality play now and if he signs for $25 million a year, he would be the perfect contract to include in a trade for a star.

Let's say the Magic are knocking on the door of being a title contender in two years and there is a big-name player on the market. Having a contract like Russell's that can be packaged with young assets and draft capital is the only way to pull off that kind of trade. Thus, Russell can be a stepping stone for the Magic to get a star in the future.

It makes all the sense in the world for both the Magic and for Russell, and unfortunately for the Lakers, that increases the likelihood of the point guard leaving.