After a disappointing season that saw head coach Byron Scott fired, the Los Angeles Lakers are nearing an important offseason. Already, rumors have popped up that one of their biggest trade assets, D’Angelo Russell, may be on the market. With Luke Walton soon to take over in Los Angeles, big changes could soon be made to the roster. The team’s first notable decision will come on Thursday, when the Lakers will use their No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. Brandon Ingram sounds like the favorite at Los Angeles’ spot, and he would make sense if the Lakers choose to keep Russell.
Chad Ford of ESPN cited Russell’s off-court controversy with teammate Nick Young as one reason the Lakers may be shopping their former No. 2 overall pick. Los Angeles may be targeting another lottery pick in the 2016 NBA Draft in return for Russell.
“I think more likely the Lakers are trying to pick up another pick in this draft in the top five and the guy that they have that they can shop is D’Angelo Russell, a guy who was their No. 2 pick in the draft last year but burned some bridges in the locker room.”
Ford is referring to an incident this past season where Russell taped a private conversation between himself and Nick Young. After the video surfaced, Russell underwent constant scrutiny and was reportedly alienated from Los Angeles’ locker room. Although Russell is certainly a top talent, it is unclear if this incidence has affected how the Lakers view him and his future in Los Angeles.
Still, even despite the controversy, CBS Sports explains that trading Russell for a top-five pick would be a questionable move.
“If the Lakers’ concerns about Russell somehow outweigh his potential, then they could do worse than acquiring a top-five pick for him. He’s only 20 years old, though, and it seems like they could be in danger of out-thinking themselves here. There is nothing wrong Los Angeles doing its due diligence and evaluating every single option before the draft, but there is unlikely to be a better plan than simply drafting Ingram and keeping Russell.”
The Lakers just spent the No. 2 overall pick on Russell, and trading him for another unknown prospect is a risky proposition. In the past season, Russell was limited to 28.2 minutes per game this past season under Byron Scott. Scott constantly insulted Russell’s defense in postgame news conferences, and cited the defensive end of the floor as the reason he came off the bench for a noteworthy portion of the season. With Russell’s inconsistent minutes, the two were never on positive terms throughout during Russell’s rookie season. Russell only started 48 games, despite the Lakers only winning 17 games in a rebuilding season. However, with Walton now in charge, Russell’s skills are expected to be fully utilized.
Walton is expected to play a more uptempo style of basketball, which is more fit for Russell’s style of play. In the past season, Scott’s Lakers were No. 16 in pace. Los Angeles struggled at scoring the ball, averaging only 98.6 points per 100 possessions, which was No. 29 in the NBA. Walton’s current team, the Golden State Warriors, was No. 2 in possessions per game this past season.
However, when Russell played under Scott, his offensive ability showed. He averaged 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per 36 minutes per Basketball-Reference. Additionally, he shot 35.1 percent from behind the arc on 370 attempts. Russell demonstrated the ability to score, as only 27.1 percent of his two-point field goals were off an assist according to Basketball-Reference.
Ultimately, it seems unlikely that Russell will be traded for a top-5 pick, even if concerns around the Lakers’ chemistry remains.
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