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The Lakers Traded D’Angelo Russell to Make Room for Bigger Names

Magic Johnson sends his point guard to Brooklyn, clearing a path for Paul George and LeBron James

(AP Images/Ringer illustration)
(AP Images/Ringer illustration)

In a trade reported Tuesday by The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets’ Brook Lopez and the 27th pick are headed to Los Angeles, while D’Angelo Russell is Brooklyn-bound. The Lakers are clearing cap space by waving goodbye to noted awful signing Timofey Mozgov.

What does this all mean? Let’s start with the Lakers.

The Short Play

It was almost a certainty that the Lakers would take Lonzo Ball at no. 2 on Thursday, and this trade all but seals it. Chino Hills rejoice, LaVar stays winning.

Saying goodbye to a combo guard in Russell certainly hurts, but it stings less because the Lakers still have Brandon Ingram — the young stud whom Magic Johnson loves — and an improving Julius Randle, while also prepping for an inevitable Paul George trade or free-agency arrival. The Mozgov salary dump is a godsend for Los Angeles’s bigger plans, and the imminent arrival of Lonzo makes the price of Russell at least more palatable.

The Lakers are reportedly rushing to find a deal for George after learning that the Cavs or another competitive team might bet on a successful one-year rental. There’s a chance that Magic and Co. are not yet finished dealing. If they want George before 2018, they still have the no. 2, no. 27, and no. 28 picks as assets, the latter two of which they are reportedly trying to package for George. Could you imagine Lonzo ending up in Indy?

The Long Play

Reports surfaced Tuesday that part of the reason Jerry West was hired by the Clippers was to lure LeBron to L.A. once he hit free agency. Magic should have the same mandate, and with the Cavs in disarray following the departure of David Griffin, the odds of LeBron leaving the Land continue to increase. The Lakers aren’t dumb. They’re reading the tea leaves and clearing their cupboards.

By getting the Nets to take Mozgov, the first step toward maximum cap space in a post-cap-boom world is done. Now, the tinkering begins.

Look at the Nets!

As the Nets have seen the Celtics benefit off of their hubris recently, they haven’t dwelled on their past, but instead are moving forward with Sean Marks at the helm. This trade is a clear example. Russell may have been a mixed bag in L.A., in part because of his off-court issues, but he gets a new start and a chance to light up Barclays Center with some hope.

The Nets did their job by getting the Lakers to pay up for them taking Mozgov, while forcing them to take Lopez ($22.6 million!) — who, despite being the franchise’s leading career scorer, doesn’t really fit on a team trying to rebuild and move past its tainted past. Both teams are in this position because of previous failures and bad moves, but from the looks of this trade, it appears they have both done the most with what they have.

In Brooklyn, the future continues to be marked by youth, while in L.A., the future is being mortgaged for the possibility of acquiring stars right away. But as the Nets can tell you, that doesn’t always tend to go as planned.