The Los Angeles Lakers are apparently so confident in their ability to land superstar free agents in the summer of 2018 that they were willing to trade one of their talented young assets just to clear cap space to sign them: D’Angelo Russell.
Magic Johnson, the “Showtime” Lakers legend who was hired as the franchise’s president of basketball operations in February, shipped the second overall pick in 2015 to the Brooklyn Nets along with the hideous contract of Timofey Mozgov in exchange for All-Star center Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
Lakers are trading Tim Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell to Nets for Brook Lopez and 27th pick Thursday, sources say.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 20, 2017
Johnson suggested in May that he’d be open to moving Russell and fellow young asset Julius Randle.
Mozgov signed a four-year, $64 million contract with LA before the 2016-17 campaign. By landing Lopez, who has one year and $22.6 million left on his contract, the Lakers clear nearly $60 million in cap space for the 2018 offseason. During that summer, Paul George, who’s expressed strong interest in joining LA, and LeBron James, whose relationship with the Cleveland Cavaliers seems to have soured this past week, will be free agents.
The Nets had the worst record in the NBA last year. By taking on Mozgov’s salary and shipping the 27th pick and Lopez, whom they likely wouldn’t have been able to afford in 2018 away, the Nets land a 21-year-old who still possesses the star potential that had him selected second overall in 2015.
While he hasn’t yet achieved star status in his two seasons, there’s hope yet he gets there.
Here are his numbers per 36 minutes from his sophomore season.
19.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 3.1 TOs, 40.5 FG%, 35.2 3PT%, 78.2 FT%
And here are the per-36 numbers of another long-armed, 6’5″ lead guard in his age-20 season.
15.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 2.2 TOs, 40.3 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 80.8 FT%
Avert your eyes, Lakers fans: Mystery Player 2 is James Harden.