East Contender's Pursuit of D'Angelo Russell Hinges on One Key Factor

Lakers All-Star guard is weighing his options between leaving for the Eastern Conference or staying in Los Angeles.
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the many important decisions the Los Angeles Lakers have to make this summer is regarding D'Angelo Russell. The dynamic combo guard has a player option for $18.7 million for next season, and if he were to opt-out, the Lakers have to think hard about whether they want to give him a lucrative, long-term deal.

All the reporting suggests that Russell will have a couple of suitors, most notably the Orlando Magic. The Eastern Conference contenders are desperate for more shooting and scoring, especially from the perimeter, and they have a ton of cap space. They are reportedly also after Paul George and Klay Thompson, but Russell can be a backup plan or an additional acquisition depending on the financial details of these deals.

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reports that the Magic are not interested in overpaying Russell. In fact, he can "guarantee" that they will not pay him more annual money than his player option.

"I haven’t talked to anyone in Orlando. I will admit publicly about D’Angelo Russell being on their radar but I can guarantee you he is not on the Orlando Magic radar for more money than what he is potentially on the books for in LA."

Jake Fischer, Yahoo Sports

This doesn't necessarily mean that they will not be able to sign Russell. If they are willing to offer Russell, say, a three-year, $48 million offer, that is still likely better than the one-year, $18.7 million he would be on if he were to opt in.

If the Magic are not willing to do that, however, it could mean that the door for a return to the Lakers is still on the table. Perhaps he could still opt out and re-sign with the Lakers. That would lower Los Angeles' financial obligations for the 2024-25 season and also give them another trade chip.

Even if Russell can't find a deal on the market and decides to opt in instead, it wouldn't be the worst thing for the Lakers. He is a valuable player in the regular season and as an expiring contract, he could be used as an asset at the trade deadline.

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