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June 21, 2017

How the Lakers' trade and rumors affect the Sixers-Celtics deal

After a lackluster postseason, the NBA is already delivering with an A+ offseason that every other major sports league has a hard time matching from an entertainment standpoint. Trades are happening from out of nowhere and rumors are flying from every corner of the league.

The major news yesterday, a Woj Bomb of the highest order, is that the Los Angeles Lakers traded recent number two overall pick D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets as the sweetener in a salary dump. And I also had an observation that garnered a few retweets:

To begin, I love the trade from Brooklyn’s perspective. D’Angelo Russell may never be a superstar point guard, but he still has a decent amount of upside at only 21 years old. For the Nets to land that type of player with the limited resources at their disposal was a worthwhile gamble.

But the Lakers are still the team that the Sixers and now Boston Celtics are focused on after the gloriously fun Markelle Fultz trade. Let’s go over that goofy pick protection one more time:

The future first-round pick will be the Lakers' first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, provided that such pick is No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, or No. 5 in the 2018 NBA Draft.

It’s the Sixers’ pick this season if the selection falls at 1 or 6-30. The Sixers should root for the Lakers to have the worst or second-worst record in the NBA so they will be guaranteed the No. 1 overall pick or that the pick will convey to Boston this year, leaving the 2019 Sacramento golden ticket all to themselves.

The $64,000 question is how the Lopez trade affects the Lakers in 2017-18? Well, it first clears the backcourt up for UCLA’s Lonzo Ball to be selected with the second-overall pick. Let’s call the Ball/Russell swap a wash for Lonzo’s rookie year, because Joel Embiid aside, rookies don’t tend to play winning basketball. But how many more wins is the addition of Lopez worth?

The Lakers won 26 games last season, although that number could have easily been less. In the short term, Lopez is both an upgrade on Mozgov and better player than Russell with his ability to score efficiently from the low post, midrange, and out to the three-point line. Barring injury, my guess is the Lakers might be a tad better this season.

Let’s call it 30ish wins, as they still won’t stop anybody. That could put the Lakers right on the edge of the fifth pick, which means the Sixers very well might be making a selection in the 2018 lottery.

Of course, this wasn’t the end of trade rumors for the Lakers. According to David Aldridge, they might have been willing to pass on Ball if that meant landing Paul George this season:

The George trade rumors are an interesting dance, because there is a decent chance that PG-13 will wind up in Los Angeles next season anyway. The Lakers don’t want to make the mistake the Knicks did with Carmelo Anthony, burning important players and assets for a player they can get with cap space next year. That said, they could run the risk of George being traded to a contender, fitting in well there, and deciding to stay.

For the Pacers, those offers seem like pu pu platters. Unfortunately, it feels like they may have missed their window to trade George for a massive haul. Now, anybody outside of the Lakers looks at George as a rental.

We’ll see if any trade materializes, but it’s certainly in the Sixers’ best interest that the Lakers don’t land Paul George this upcoming season. He’s good at basketball and for one more year, the Sixers could use the Lakers being the opposite.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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