Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson said all of the right things when they got the job. They wanted to rebuild for the future. They wanted to keep the core and build with a long-term view on things. Both of them seemed to be pleased with D’Angelo Russell and happy having him as a Laker. There was no indication that the Lakers were going to move on from him in the near future at least. The rebuild was progressing nicely.
Then, Woj dropped a bomb on all of us. A bomb that would go on to be the first move of the front office during the offseason period. It was a trade.
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
There were signs that this might happen as Russell was benched for a stretch during the season and head coach Luke Walton didn’t appear to be D’Angelo’s biggest fan. There were multiple reports coming out that the Lakers were not high on D’Angelo Russell. Magic even viewed Brandon Ingram as the only untouchable player. The signs were there, but most of the people fell for what Magic and Pelinka fed them.
This trade was terrible for the Lakers. Plain and simple. The timeline is now rushed and they gave up a potential superstar, or at least a star, just to dump a terrible contract and get a late first round pick. The value they got back was highway robbery. A legitimate building block is now in Brooklyn and all it cost them was Mozgov’s contract which is fine for them. The Nets will not be signing any major free agents for a long time, so they can burn that money.
A salary dump at this point seems to make sense for the Lakers, since they are going to push all their chips in for Paul George and LeBron James in 2018. This would mean that they can’t afford to have that huge contract on the books. The worst part about this trade is the process. This trade would have been available next year if they really started to hear that LeBron and PG are going to come over. Russell would have more value after a season with Lonzo Ball and another year with Luke Walton. Mozgov’s contract would be easier to move with only two years left. With a rebuilding team that is this young, patience is the game. A game that Pelinka and Magic don’t want to play. Bad trades like these are the results.
The Lakers didn’t just want to clear up cap space, they were looking to move D’Angelo for a lottery pick and it appears that nobody bit on a trade:
Lakers had called multiple teams in lottery about acquiring Russell this week. No takers. He becomes the guy who helps them get off Moz $
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 20, 2017
When a player with the upside that D’Angelo Russell has is not garnering value, it is important not to sell low on him. This move is one that can alter the course of the franchise, especially if Russell has the success in Brooklyn that most people are projecting he will. This move will be one that haunts them so much in the future if Russell becomes anything really good. All of the signs point to him being that.
Russell had a great run after the All-Star break where he looked like the player that everyone thought he would be. He was not a player that damaged the team on the court or in the locker room. He has had his moments of immaturity, but that does not justify a move like this. D’Angelo was the best player on the Lakers and he proved much more than Ingram did. He was their best prospect, and to simply give up on him and move him in a salary dump, it’s pretty pathetic and it shows incompetence.
The Lakers also got Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the draft. Both of these assets are okay. Brook Lopez is a player that will just live out his contract until it expires (editor’s note: HOPEFULLY). This trade was a salary dump and not an attempt to get equal value for Russell.
For as much hope as there was for the front office, a lot of it is gone now. They are mortgaging the future in order to make improvements for the near future. Magic and Pelinka have effectively abandoned the plan that Mitch and Jim put in place and the plan that they talked up during the season.
This plan is one that pushes all of the chips in and puts the future in the hands of free agents. A bet that the Lakers have made before and lost, requiring them to build through the draft.
After trading a former #2 pick, the message is clear: they want to make a free agent splash. Paul George is going to get to LA and they will go from there. With Lonzo Ball coming in and Ingram already there, they must be hoping that the blend of youth and quality veteran players will lead the Lakers to relevance.
It is a good plan in theory, but it requires immense luck and hope that free agents will come. This plan has burned the team over and over again. The ceiling that the Lakers once had has now been lowered drastically. The front office did show their hand on how they are going to build and it is going to be mainly through free agency. So far they have shown an eagerness to have cap space open for superstars.
The signs were there from the start that the front office was going to build this way. Most people chose to ignore the signs and thought the front office was preaching patience. If this trade is any indication, it appears that those people were wrong.