Lakers Predicted to Lose $36 Million Star in Free Agency

The Los Angeles Lakers have limited flexibility with what they can do with their roster and two of the starters from last season (D’Angelo Russell and LeBron James) both have player options. It appears that James and the Lakers have a mutual interest in him coming back but it’s less clear what’s happening with Russell.

The former All-Star guard is coming off a strong regular season but struggled in the playoffs. However, he was likely good enough last season to earn a raise over the two-year, $36 million contract the Lakers gave him last offseason. Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report is predicting Russell to decline his player option and leave in free agency.

“Prior to that postseason skid, though, the former No. 2 pick played some of the best basketball of his career,” Buckley wrote in a June 20 column. “That felt significant, too. When offense-needy shoppers look to spruce up their attacks this summer, they’ll all take note of his torrid play once the calendar flipped to 2024 (20.4 points per game on 45/42.6/85.7 shooting from Jan. to April).

“Perhaps those numbers won’t net him a salary richer than his $18.7 million player option, but they could certainly fetch him something with a similar pay rate over multiple years. He seems likely to land a deal with contract terms the Lakers won’t want to pay.”

Where Could D’Angelo Russell Play Next Season?

It’s going to be difficult for a contending team to pay Russell big money. His playoff struggles are undeniable at this point. He averages 17.8 points a game on 43% shooting in the regular season but drops to 14.8 points per game on 38.8% shooting in the playoffs.

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He’d make the most sense for a team like the San Antonio Spurs. They have a generational talent in Victor Wembanyama but the team isn’t close to contending quite yet. Russell would provide the team with some scoring outside of Wembanyama. The Orlando Magic could also make sense. They made the playoffs last season but could use a veteran scorer like Russell. It’s hard to see a great team wanting to pay the guard but there are good teams that could use his help.

Who Could Be the Los Angeles Lakers’ PG?

Russell was the Lakers’ starting point guard last season so if he leaves, the team will have an opening at the position. Chris Paul would be the most obvious fit if the Golden State Warriors released him. He’s 39 but is still a very good distributor. He’s not the scorer that Russell is but he’s a far better passer.

The Lakers could also look to trade for a player like Trae Young. He has some of the same issues that Russell has as a defender but he’s a more prolific scorer and has proven that he can be an effective playoff performer.

Kyle Lowery would make sense. Similar to Paul, he’s very old (38) but can still be an effective distributor. He’d likely come in on a minimum contract so the Lakers could try to pair him with a young point guard. The team should bring in a young point guard but it looks like their options could be limited to aging veterans.

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