“Exploring Potential Third Party in D’Angelo Russell and Dejounte Murray Trade Speculations in the NBA”?

According to ​​Sam Amick of The Athletic, the Los Angeles Lakers are the team most aggressively pursuing Dejounte Murray of the Atlanta Hawks. However, the deal remains hung up over D’Angelo Russell’s inclusion. The Lakers need to offload Russell’s $17.3 million salary to make room for Murray, and it looks like a third team will be required for the Lakers to land their man. 

Why the Hawks have no interest in D’Angelo Russell

The Hawks having no interest in Russell isn’t surprising. The dual point-guard backcourt of Trae Young and Murray has failed in Atlanta, and Russell’s skillset is more similar to Young’s than Murray’s. The Hawks are also likely looking to cut salary for next season, and Russell has one more year on his contract at $18.7 million. 

To satisfy Atlanta’s perceived desire to cut payroll in 2024-25, the Lakers will need to find a third team that can take Russell’s contract for next season and send Atlanta an expiring salary. Unfortunately, the Lakers and Hawks might have a hard time finding teams interested in Russell. 

Why D’Angelo Russell has limited trade value league-wide

D’Angelo Russell’s value across the league is not commensurate with his actual ability and contract. His value is predominantly depressed due to his position and style of play. Russell is a point guard who is at his best when he is given the freedom to run an offense, but he’s not so good at it to be a difference-maker at the highest level. 

The best teams in the league already have elite lead ball handlers, and the worst teams have young players they want to give developmental reps. Russell is, unfortunately, too bad to help a good team and too good to help a bad team lose. He’s paid like the mid-tier point guard he is, but few teams want a mid-tier point guard because it just leads to the dreaded middle. 

The list of teams in need of an average point guard with salary cap space is not long, but it does exist. These are three teams that could take D’Angelo Russell to facilitate a Lakers-Dejounte Murray trade. 

3. Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies have had a season from hell. Before the season even started, they were down their top two centers, Brandon Clarke and Steven Adam. Then, after serving a 25-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league, Ja Morant lasted all of nine games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. And to cap off their nightmare, Desmond Bane suffered a grade three ankle sprain that will knock him out for at least six weeks. 

The Grizzlies’ season is over, but that doesn’t mean the front office shouldn’t be busy preparing for a big bounce back in 2024-25. The Grizzlies project to be incredibly expensive next season (they have $116.2 million tied up in four players), but adding another quality point guard needs to be atop their list. As incredible as Morant is, he has not shown the ability to traverse a full NBA season without injury. 

For years, Morant’s annual injury sabbatical was mitigated by the presence of Tyus Jones, but Jones was traded to Washington as part of the Marcus Smart trade this offseason. Russell isn’t the steady hand that Jones is at point guard, but he is a perfectly capable deputy to Morant, and his size should allow him to play alongside Morant in certain matchups. While Smart can play point guard, his ability to run an offense is limited compared to Russell’s. 

To land Russell, the Grizzlies will have to send Luke Kennard’s $14.7 million contract to the Hawks. Kennard has a team option for $14.7 million in 2024-25 that should be enticing for the Hawks as they look to rebuild their roster on the fly. If the Hawks are dead set on cutting payroll, they can decline Kennard’s option. Or they could activate Kennard’s option and use his salary in a trade next season. And there is always the possibility they could just keep him around as a lethal floor spacer feasting off an endless supply of Trae Young pick-and-rolls. 

The Grizzlies learned the hard way that they need two capable point guards, and Russell is a perfect stopgap solution. If he turns out to be surplus to requirements or a poor fit, he’ll be a juicy $18.7 million expiring contract that can be used in a trade. Memphis has an opportunity this season to add pieces for 2025 and beyond, and Russell fills an immediate and future need while still providing the Grizzlies with flexibility. 

2. San Antonio Spurs 

The San Antonio Spurs have a future star in Victor Wembanyama but not much else. Yes, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson are solid, if not redundant, wings, and Jeremy Sochan has the potential to be an impact player but is still years from realizing it. There’s stuff happening in San Antonio outside of Wembanyama, but the Spurs have a transcendent player who can help a team win at the highest level right now and saw their fanbase clamor for Tre Jones to start at point guard. 

If starting Tre Jones at point guard is your best option, you’re an unserious team. D’Angelo Russell isn’t a championship-caliber point guard, but he is a significant step up from Jones, who makes for a more than adequate backup. The Spurs have banked enough losses to guarantee a top-ten pick, and taking on Russell’s contract could further spur Wembanyama’s development while adding to their war chest of assets. Russell is admittedly not a Greg Popovich type of point guard, but he can run the pick-and-roll and hit open threes, making him a far more dynamic partner for Wembanyama. 

There are two routes the Spurs could go as a third-team in a Dejounte Murray to the Lakers trade. Keldon Johnson has been rumored to be available, and the Spurs could reroute him to Atlanta and receive the draft assets the Lakers surrendered for Murray. Johnson isn’t as good a player as Murray, but he’s on an exceptionally team-friendly contract and is a natural fit at shooting guard next to Trae Young. 

If the Hawks are determined to recoup as many assets as possible for Murray, then the Spurs could send them Doug McDermott’s expiring $13.8 million contract. The move would save the Hawks money this season and make their books cleaner going forward. 

The Spurs have cap space and should rent it out to teams for a fee. Being the third team that greases the salary wheels is exactly the type of business they need to be engaged in, and landing Russell will help their short-term outlook as well. 

1. Brooklyn Nets 

The Brooklyn Nets have fallen on hard times. After starting the season 12-9, they have gone 5-18 in their ensuing 23 games. Unlike most struggling teams, the Nets don’t control their own first-round pick and have little incentive to tank the season away. Which makes them the perfect landing spot for D’Angelo Russell. 

The Nets are tailor-made for an offensive superstar. They have an incredible stable of two-way wings and a switchable center but lack a lead ball handler capable of generating enough offense to tie everything together. D’Angelo Russell isn’t a star, but he sure likes to play like he is, and he is perfectly capable of coming in and benefitting from the cozy point guard confines the Nets’ possess. He won’t make the Nets a contender or even a lock for the playoffs, but he will help them win more games. 

To make room for Russell, the Nets will trade Spencer Dinwiddie and his expiring $20.3 million contract to the Hawks. The Hawks would take an immediate step back, but getting Dinwiddie’s expiring contract in for Murray’s will save them $25.5 million next season. With cleaner books, more assets, and Clint Capela entering the final year of his deal, the Hawks will have the ability to remake their roster in a single offseason.  

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