The Los Angeles Lakers received the benefit of a big-time break with the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery. If the team fell out of the top three selections, Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and company would have been forced to operate without a first-rounder in both 2017 and 2019 but, on cue, the Lakers picked up the No. 2 overall pick. In short order, the NBA world shifted from “oh, look, the Lakers kept their pick” to “Lonzo Ball, come on down!” and that is the backdrop for a juicy pre-draft rumor.
Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated brings word that the Lakers “are evaluating trade packages” that would send 21-year-old point guard D’Angelo Russell out of town to create space for Ball. The report indicates that Los Angeles is “likely” to pick Ball with the No. 2 overall pick and, given the way that both Lonzo and his father have been angling, that is not exactly a well-kept secret.
To that end, Russell would seemingly become expendable but this is a complicated situation. For starters, the former Ohio State point guard just completed a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 15.6 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game at the age of 20 and Russell has shown some of the flashes that made him a hot commodity in the draft. On the flip side, there was a hiccup off the floor involving Nick Young during his rookie season and Russell hasn’t necessarily zoomed to the front of the line when it comes to discussions about the “next big thing” in the NBA.
Could Ball and Russell play together? Potentially. In actuality, Ball may need to play off the ball more than his camp would like in the NBA as a result of his unorthodox shooting release and lack of upper-tier athleticism, whereas Russell could use a partner in crime that could also serve as a secondary ball-handler. Defensively, however, the backcourt pairing would be an adventure and it could be telling that the Lakers are already associated with trade chatter within hours of the lottery’s end.
There will be more than a month of discussion with regard to what the Lakers will do at No. 2 overall (and, frankly, what the Celtics will do in the top spot) but the rumor chill is already churning. Keep your eye on D’Angelo Russell.