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Lakers News: D’Angelo Russell Decides on Player Option

Apr 25, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) moves the ball against Denver Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) during the second half in game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As players begin to decide whether they want to test the waters of free agency, new reports have emerged about Lakers starter D’Angelo Russell and his choice to accept or decline an $18.6 million player option.

Lakers News: D’Angelo Russell Decides on Player Option

D’Lo’s Decision

NBA writer Jake Weinbach posted on X/Twitter that the veteran guard will decline his option and enter unrestricted free agency.

Russell’s second stint with the Lakers has been a mixed bag with his ability to show out in the regular season but flame out in the playoffs. This year was no different.

After signing a two-year, $36 million contract last summer, Russell had his best season scoring-wise with the Lakers. In 76 games, he averaged 18 points on 45% shooting from the field and 41.5% from distance. He also put up 6.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 0.9 steals per game. A rough stretch sent Russell to the bench midseason, where he averaged 12.4 points and 5.4 assists across seven games.

When the Lakers matched up with the Denver Nuggets in the first round, fans expected Russell to redeem himself from a poor performance in last year’s Western Conference Finals. While he certainly had some bright spots—namely two 20-point outings on 50% shooting—D’Lo still left a lot to be desired. He averaged 14.2 points and 4.2 assists on 38% shooting from the field, 31% from three and 50% from the charity stripe.

Russell’s decision contradicts Jovan Buha’s belief that the Lakers wanted him to opt in for a possible trade. Though D’Lo previously expressed a desire to return, he also noted he intends to use whatever leverage he has to sign a deal worth his while. This now leaves both sides with intriguing options going forward.

Next Steps for Russell and the Lakers

Despite his postseason struggles, Russell is expected to have several suitors who need a scoring point guard. The main team rumored to have interest is the Orlando Magic, a young team with a bright future despite also losing in the first round. They reportedly have over $60 million in cap space to spend this summer, and Russell could very well be one of their targets next to Klay Thompson or Malik Monk.

The Lakers, meanwhile, are a walking question mark when it comes to free agency. Russell’s decision—along with LeBron James’s—could be the key indicators in knowing how much money LA will have to spend this offseason. Russell and the Lakers could still discuss another deal, and the team could re-sign him using his Bird Rights.

Given the new CBA, the Lakers entering the second tax apron would place significant restrictions on their spending afterwards. The penalties include being unable to use the $5 million taxpayer mid-level exception, send cash in trades, or trade first-round picks that are seven years out. For a team that’s willing to make win-now moves, they cannot afford to cross that line.

With Russell having made his decision and several teams trying to pry him away from LA, the Lakers should prepare to pay up if they want to keep their point guard.

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