LOS ANGELES >> Three people with knowledge of the deal say the Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to trade point guard D’Angelo Russell and high-priced center Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for big man Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in the upcoming draft.
The people spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity today because the trade hadn’t been consummated.
The Lakers’ new front office led by Magic Johnson has boldly decided to give up on Russell, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, after just two years. He averaged 15.6 points and 4.8 assists last season while Los Angeles struggled to its fourth consecutive losing record.
The deal all but confirms Los Angeles will select UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick in the draft Thursday, adding the gifted playmaker to run coach Luke Walton’s up-tempo offense.
The Lakers also appear to be sacrificing Russell to clear the salary cap space eaten up by the final three seasons of the four-year, $64 million contract given to Mozgov by the previous front office. Although Mozgov performed reasonably well when given the chance last season, averaging 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds, the 7-foot-1 Russian didn’t appear to fit into Walton’s Golden State-influenced schemes.
Mozgov and forward Luol Deng both got exorbitant free-agent deals from general manager Mitch Kupchak and decision-maker Jim Buss last July. Both were dismissed in February by owner Jeanie Buss, who hired Magic and general manager Rob Pelinka to return the 16-time champions to contention.
Yahoo Sports first reported the deal.
If the Lakers continue to create salary cap room with other moves, they could be an attractive landing spot for free agents next season with the flexibility to offer two enormous contracts — perhaps even maximum deals. Although the moves likely would require further abandonment of their rebuild around youth, Los Angeles also would still have wing scorer Brandon Ingram and Ball, the last two No. 2 picks in the draft.
Indiana star Paul George has long nursed a desire to return to his native Southern California to suit up for the Lakers, while LeBron James leads the list of potential free agents who could be intrigued by the chance to form a super-team in Hollywood in 2018. James, the budding entertainment mogul, could be ready for a change after the latest round of franchise instability in Cleveland.
The Lakers and their demanding fans have had dreams of such grandeur annually for decades, but the franchise is emerging from the least successful stretch in team history. Johnson has been clear in his desire to attract big-name NBA talent to Los Angeles, even at the expense of young talent, and this trade will start the process of creating the room for veteran stars.
The NBA-worst Nets will get a clear talent in Russell, who showed flashes of greatness on a pair of lousy teams. Russell also struggled in stretches, but remained a dangerous scorer and improved his playmaking in Walton’s rookie coaching season.
Lopez will return to his native California after spending his entire nine-year NBA career with the Nets. He has just one season left on his contract at $22.6 million, but the 7-footer also has a 3-point shooting acumen that could fit in well with the Lakers.
The deal also gives three first-round picks on Thursday to the Lakers, who acquired the 28th overall pick during the season from Houston in a trade for Lou Williams. Los Angeles has plenty of pieces to swing another trade in the next two days.