The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have completed the NBA’s second big offseason trade prior to Thursday’s draft, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
According to Wojnarowski, the Lakers are sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the draft.
The deal looks like an immediate win for the Nets, who pick up an intriguing young prospect in Russell while taking on Mozgov’s salary, but it may also hint at bigger aspirations for the Lakers.
By moving Russell, who was supposed to be the team’s future guard, it appears the Lakers are zeroing in on Lonzo Ball with the second pick, as has been heavily rumored. Ball, during a workout with the Lakers, said he thinks he can run their offense and that they need leadership on the court, perhaps a subtle dig at Russell’s relatively underwhelming tenure with the team.
Additionally, in trading Mozgov, the Lakers also clear up future cap space, as Mozgov is owed $48 million over the next three years. Lopez, meanwhile, is a free agent next year, owed $22 million this season. That means the Lakers will have cap space in 2018 when LeBron James is a free agent. Chatter of James leaving the Cavs for the Lakers in 2018 has been ramping up around the NBA.
Furthermore, the Lakers also picked up an additional draft pick in the trade, adding to their No. 2 overall pick and their 27th overall pick (via the Houston Rockets). In picking up a borderline All-Star center in Lopez and an additional draft pick, the Lakers could potentially be gearing up for a trade. The target may be Paul George, who reportedly recently informed the Indiana Pacers that he intended to leave in 2018 and join the Lakers, his hometown team.
It’s unclear if the Lakers are willing to trade for George, but they may be up against the clock. The Pacers reportedly plan to move George quickly, and the Lakers could miss out if George is traded to a winning team and decides to re-sign with them in 2018.
Of course, if the Lakers are unable or unwilling to pull off a trade for George this season, they’ll have the cap space to go after him in free agency in 2018.
What the Lakers may have up their sleeves is still relatively unknown, but in Tuesday’s trade they dumped a valuable asset, gained another draft pick, and cleared up future cap space – moves that hint at a bigger plan.