In the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets agreed to a trade that made sense for both teams at the time. But looking back, it’s the Lakers who may have won this deal. The Lakers sent D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets for the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and Brook Lopez. From the outside looking in, it seems both teams did well, however, it’s the Lakers who will get the most out of this trade for the future.
Getting rid of Lopez was a smart move. The Nets were so focused on giving him up they didn’t realize the Lakers pulled a fast one on them. Despite Lopez’s hefty contract, he was set to become a free agent in 2018. All the Nets had to do was wait and find a trade partner during the NBA trade deadline and rid themselves of that contract. Instead, they took on Mozgov’s deal, which expires in 2020 with an average of $16 million per season, according to Spotrac.
The Lakers traded Russell so they could draft Lonzo Ball, and while Ball has struggled this season, the Lakers still came out as geniuses for this move. By getting rid of Mozgov’s contract, the Lakers were able to rent Lopez for the season while hoping to trade him for a serviceable player or at least a draft pick in 2018. One year of paying Lopez $23 million, compared to paying three more years of $16 million to Mozgov. Smart move by the Lakers.
Now, let’s look to the future.
With that 27th pick, the Lakers now have their future power forward in Kyle Kuzma. That position has been an area of concern for the Nets this season. In order for the team to find a good player there, they might be forced to trade either DeMarre Carroll or Spencer Dinwiddie. What the Nets did was help the Lakers out of a serious bind they put themselves in and set them up for a bright future.
The Lakers will not have a first-round pick of their own in 2018. However, they have pieces to trade thanks to the Nets deal. With Julius Randle set to become a free agent along with Brook Lopez, the Lakers can trade one or both for picks or players. This is why the Nets deal was so important. With Kuzma playing the way he has, that has provided the Lakers with the flexibility to place Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Lopez on the trade block. The Nets, on the other hand, are still waiting for a return on Mozgov, Carroll, and Allen Crabbe.
Russell is deemed as the better player over Ball, but it’s the Lakers who may get the last laugh in the end. Russell is still on his rookie deal, however, if he can return to the form he had before his injury, the Nets might be forced to sign him to an extension in 2018 before he becomes a free agent in 2019. On the Lakers end, they still have Ball on his rookie deal for another three years. For a trade that was supposed to save the Nets money, they could very well end up spending more. The Lakers won the trade due to the assets they gained with rookies and flexibility.
The trade, at first glance, was a win-win for both teams, but in reality, only the Lakers came out on top.