D'Angelo Russell doesn't represent 'an untouchable cornerstone' contrary to previous reports that the Los Angeles Lakers are opposed to trading the second-year point guard. If the Lakers are able to draft UCLA standout Lonzo Ball during the 2017 NBA Draft, they will likely trade Russell, per several reports.
Prior to last month's NBA Trade Deadline, the Lakers front office reiterated that the young trio of Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Russell were 'untouchable' with regards to trade talks. However, there seems to be a shift in the proverbial stance since Magic Johnson took charge of basketball operations.
According to Basketball Insiders, if the Lakers are able to hold onto their top-3 protected draft pick, they wouldn't think twice before drafting either Ball or Markelle Fultz on draft night. This, despite the fact that the Lakers have young point guards Russell and Jordan Clarkson on the roster.
"In the draft, the Lakers could find a star point guard. Although a point guard may not a constitute a perfect fit for the roster, it’s not clear if any of the Lakers young guards currently represents an untouchable cornerstone. Point guard prospects Markell Fultz of Washington and Lonzo Ball of UCLA are projected as top two picks in the upcoming draft, and each could be a franchise-level talent," insider James Blancarte noted in his report.
D'Angelo Russell trade: Lakers could draft Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz
Last week, Amin Elhassan, ESPN's front office insider, said that the Lakers would look to build the roster around Lonzo Ball during the offseason (provided they are able to draft the young point guard). "Drafting (Lonzo) Ball opens the door for someone to find a new home. Let's be honest on that one. There aren't going to be so many guards (D'Angelo Russell, Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson) on the same roster. There are going to be some casualties," Elhassan said on ESPN LA Radio.
Luke Walton, coach of the Lakers, recently moved D'Angelo Russell out of the starting unit, further fuelling speculation of a blockbuster summer trade. Though Walton stated that replacing Russell with Clarkson is just a part of the evaluation process, several insiders covering the Purple & Gold are convinced that the team could see major changes in the offseason. “Just to see what it looks like when he’s out there running the point guard position against starting groups and what not. (It is) part of our evaluation is always seeing how players respond to different opportunities," Walton said while explaining his decision to bench Russell.
D'Angelo Russell is averaging 15.1 points, 4.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game in his second season. The 21-year-old is still viewed as a future All-Star in the NBA due to his shooting and passing ability. However, he is often overmatched by opposition point guards due to his lack of explosiveness and athleticism. Will the Lakers successfully pull off a D'Angelo Russell trade? Or would they simply move Russell to the two-guard role? It's going to be busy offseason for Magic Johnson & Co.