WASHINGTON • The Los Angeles Lakers continued their dramatic transformation under team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka on Tuesday, sending D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in today's National Basketball Association (NBA) draft.
The move means the Lakers are parting ways with Russell just two years after the point guard was drafted second overall.
While doing so clears the way for the Lakers to take University of California at Los Angeles point guard Lonzo Ball as the second overall pick, the bigger ramification is that it clears US$23 million (S$31 million) in salary cap space next year.
That is relevant because the Lakers previously would not have had enough cap space next summer to sign one max free agent. Now, not only are they armed with more than enough cap space to sign Paul George - who made it clear to the Indiana Pacers this week that he plans to sign with the Lakers next summer - but they are also within striking distance of a second max salary slot.
That could potentially be used to lure LeBron James. The superstar forward will be a free agent next summer as well, and while he was already expected to explore his options outside of Cleveland, Monday night's decision by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert not to retain general manager David Griffin will only make the future of the team more uncertain for everyone involved.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, used their salary cap space to take on Mozgov's albatross of a contract, which had three years and US$48 million left. The prize for the Nets doing so was Russell, who has had an uneven first two years in the NBA, but has shown flashes of talent.
Still just 21, he averaged 15.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists last year for the Lakers in 60 games.
He is exactly the kind of guard - with his combination of passing ability and three-point shooting - that has the potential to thrive in Nets coach Kenny Atkinson's free-flowing offence. And he should be able to play right away next to Jeremy Lin in the Nets' backcourt next season.
Meanwhile, former Lakers centre Dwight Howard is heading to the Charlotte Hornets. The Atlanta Hawks have traded the centre and the 31st pick in the draft for big man Miles Plumlee, guard Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick.