Because all that matters in the end is who “won” the trade, let’s take a look at the early returns of the trade between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers which sent Brook Lopez to LA and returned D’Angelo Russell to the Nets.
He begins by shaking off the stench that is the Mozgov contract, which will pay him $48 million over the next three seasons. Let’s get comfortable with that contract, shall we, and the tag “serviceable” to which you’ll hear a lot over the coming days as we all try to describe Mozgov’s impact on the basketball court.
Russell, however, is the gem of this deal. In that, he has the ability to be a special talent, at just 21 years old, which is the kind of player most believed the Nets would struggle to roster any time soon.
Pelton on Russell:
His attitude is questionable, his defense is worse and he hasn't proven an explosive athlete against NBA opponents. Despite all that, he submitted one of the 25 best offensive seasons by a point guard 21 or younger as measured by Basketball-Reference.com's box plus-minus metric.
He goes on:
Point guards tend to continue developing later than players at other positions -- particularly bigger points, like the 6-foot-5 Russell -- and there's reason to believe he's still just scratching the surface of his potential. Of the 10 players my SCHOENE projection system rates most similar to Russell at the same age, three (Gilbert Arenas, Chauncey Billups and Jrue Holiday) developed into All-Stars, while Mike Conley is perhaps the best player ever not to make an All-Star team.
Who knows what Russell will become, but to have a player who can become something (special?) is quite the change of pace for these Nets.
Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver gave the Nets an ‘A’ for the trade, citing the Nets dismal draft pick scenario and this being the shot you take when you’re in a situation like the Nets.
For a team stuck so far deep into the abyss, the smartest possible play is to acquire young talent and/or top draft picks by eating bad contracts. This is a textbook example. Brooklyn might not be able to draft Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball this year thanks to their ill-fated trade with Boston, but they now add the 21-year-old Russell to a roster that can really use his potential. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson is known for his player development and his work with lead guards, like Jeremy Lin, and he should be able to invest all of next season—and beyond—on helping craft Russell into a pick-and-roll maestro and lead scoring option.
And at the Sporting News, Sam Vecenie thinks Marks did well, gave him an A.
The Nets have been trying to find ways to acquire upper echelon, higher-level talent from the moment that Sean Marks took over as general manager after Billy King disastrously decided to move the Nets' 2016, 2017 and 2018 first-round picks for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They’ve done a nice job of accumulating talent on the fringes under Marks, such as making a deal for 20th overall pick last year, which they used on Caris LeVert.
But this is the move Marks has been hoping to make all along. Cash in the team’s two remaining big-ticket chips — Lopez and the ability to take in bad contracts due to their abundance of cap space — and pick up a potential star.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports and Hardwood Paroxysm also thinks the Nets aced it.
The Nets have almost infinite cap space and no free agent prospects. They can absorb Mozgov and still have $30 million remaining in space.
Essentially, the Nets get Russell for Lopez and the 27th pick. That's incredible value. Russell is still a supremely talented guard. His maturity issues are real, and go beyond the disaster with Nick Young and Snapchat. When he clashed with Byron Scott it was seen as a problem with an old-school coach. But Luke Walton also had issues with him.
In Brooklyn, he's the star, the top of the pecking order.
Over at Silver Screen and Roll, our Lakers brothers and sisters seem to be leaning more in the “NOPE” column than on the “OH HELL YEAH” side of things.
In their roundtable, the reactions included “The Lakers just gave up a 21-year-old that was their best player for one year of Lopez and a salary dump. Awful.” And “The Lakers made a huge mistake. A horrible mistake. A very big, very bad, awful, no-good mistake. Russell is going to be really good and they seemed determined to get rid of him - I'm not sure why, and I don't like it.”
Nets fans feel your pain. They’ve been on the losing side of a trade or two over the years.
But, if I may, in Brook Lopez you get one of the more (most?) genuine, affable, hard-working players in the NBA. Imagine playing 72+ games in each of the last three seasons for the Brooklyn Nets. Having your name tied to trade rumors every...single...day for the last 9 years and not once, at least not publicly, complaining about your situation. And he has an Instagram account for his cat.
He’s an easy guy to root for. If that helps.