Since the retirement of all-time great Kobe Bryant, the losing situation that the Lakers have been in hasn’t shown much of any improvement from last season. With them currently having a 19-44 record after ending the 2015-2016 season with a 17-65 record, it's logical to think that newly hired president of basketball operations, Magic Johnson, will begin to make some major changes to the roster.
One that may be worth looking into is the trade of the team’s young starting point guard, D’Angelo Russell. Russell averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 41% from the field and 35.1% from beyond the arc during his first year in the NBA (2015-2016 season).
Many NBA experts would claim that he had a “pretty good” rookie year when one considers the talent Russell had around him and the presence of a high-volume shooter in Kobe Bryant. However, since becoming the primary ball-handler for the team, he has managed to average 14.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game while only shooting 40.2% from the field and 34.8% from 3-point range and while also leading the Lakers to only 17 wins, only a two-win improvement from last season so far. Because of this, many Lakers fans are asking, is it time to abandon ship? Is it time to allow a new face to steer the Lakers to success? No one can know for sure, but with the Lakers having a possibility of obtaining potentially a top 3 pick in the 2017 draft and with the draft containing multiple talented point guards including Markelle Fultz of the University of Washington and Lonzo Ball of UCLA, the chance of Magic Johnson deciding to move Russell definitely increases. So here are three situations that Russell could land in.
First, we go to the mid-west to the city of Chicago, Illinois, home of the Chicago Bulls. The situation in Chicago has had its ups and downs throughout the season. One down is the leadership turmoil between starting point guard Rajon Rondo and guards Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade, which led to the benching of Rondo in early January. The addition of Russell could benefit the Bulls in multiple ways. One, Russell is more “coachable” than Rondo which would allow the overall team chemistry to improve. Two, like Rondo, Russell has advanced passing skills, especially in the pick and roll. They aren’t exactly like Rondo’s; however, they are good enough to the point where one won’t see a decrease in the quality of how the offense is run.
And finally, Russell is a better shooter than Rondo, because Rondo only shoots 29.2% from 3-point range for his career to Russell’s 35%. This would give Wade an extra shooter to kick out, and spread the floor and give better opportunities for both Wade and Valentine to capitalize on.
Trade Option: Jimmy Butler for D'Angelo Russell and Luol Deng
A second team that we could see Russell moved to is the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons, like the Bulls, have had their share of issues with their starting point guard, Reggie Jackson. Like Rondo, Jackson has seen a decrease in minutes through the first half of the season. Specifically, in the month of February. This has been due to Jackson’s lackluster performances through the past couple of months. Jackson went from averaging 19.6 points, 3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game in January to averaging 10.1 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game in February. Since the All-Star break, he has averaged 12 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 4 assists. Not much of an improvement from his February slump.
From these statistics, it is clear that Jackson has fallen off and is overall inconsistent with his offensive output on the court. The addition of D’Angelo Russell would not only give the Pistons a point guard with better averages (14.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists), but also an improving point guard that the team can grow with. Since the All-Star break, Russell has averaged 20.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. Numbers that are better than his ones in February (15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists). On top of that, Russell is young, meaning the post-All-Star numbers aren’t necessarily just a “hot streak”. It tells us that he is in the process of improving. Jackson is at the age of 26 and is nearing his prime, meaning that is less likely to significantly improve from now. With the Pistons also having a good number of veterans including Tobias Harris, Ish Smith, and Steve Blake just to name a few, Russell’s growth would be one of good quality.
Trade Option: Andre Drummond for D'Angelo Russell, Thomas Robinson and Nick Young
New York Knicks
A third team that could benefit from acquiring Russell is the New York Knicks. Their current starting point guard is one Derrick Rose. Many Knicks fans believed that the addition of Rose would be the last piece their team needed in order to obtain a playoff berth for the first time since the 2012-2013 season. This notion, however, couldn’t have been further from the truth, as the Knicks are currently 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 25-38 record. The addition of Rose in 2016 has not seemed to improve the Knicks' win column as their 2015-2016 season resulted in 32 wins. However, their current season record shows that the trade for Rose has not done much good for their record, as they currently have 7 fewer wins than their 2015-2016 season.
Despite Rose having “pretty good” stats (17.9 points, 4 rebounds, 4.4 assists), he is in his prime at 28 years old meaning he most likely won’t get any better from here, and his current numbers aren’t good enough for him to get a max contract deal this summer. If the Knicks aren’t going to take another chance on Rose, which is expected at this point in the season, they will be looking for a replacement. Why not let that replacement be D’Angelo Russell? He’s 20 years old meaning he has plenty of room to grow with the team, and he hasn’t had any major injuries that would negatively impact his production on the court. His numbers (14.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists) aren’t that far off of Rose’s already at the beginning of his career. In addition to all of this, if the Lakers don’t ask for Kristaps Porzingis in return for Russell, he would be paired up with a young, up and coming star that the Knicks could build around, giving the Knicks two future assets to grow with.
Trade Option: Carmelo Anthony for D'Angelo Russell