NBA free agency 2023: D'Angelo Russell, Lakers agree to 2-year, $37M deal

Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) motions after a basket against the Denver Nuggets during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals series, Thursday, May 18, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
D'Angelo Russell gave the Lakers what they wanted last season, until the Western Conference finals. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

D'Angelo Russell's return to the Los Angeles Lakers last season ended on a sour note. He just made sure there will be more to the story.

The 27-year-old point guard agreed to a two-year, $37 million deal to remain with the Lakers after hitting unrestricted free agency, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Russell's contract agreement came as the Lakers also struck deals to keep restricted free agents Austin Reaves (four years, $56 million) and Rui Hachimura (three years, $51 million). The team also added Gabe Vincent on a three-year, $33 million deal, setting up a likely point guard tandem with the former Miami Heat starter and Russell.

The Lakers acquired Russell earlier this year at the trade deadline as the largest piece in their return from the three-team trade that got Russell Westbrook off the books. That trade reunited Russell with his original team, as the Lakers selected him second overall in the 2015 NBA Draft and traded him two years later, partially due to his infamous Snapchat incident with Nick Young.

Russell later developed into an All-Star with the Brooklyn Nets and spent time with the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves before fate sent him back to Los Angeles.

In his second go-around with the Lakers, Russell turned out to be a better match as a starting point guard for the team than Westbrook. Whereas Westbrook was an infamously bad shooter, Russell shot 41.4% from 3-point range with the Lakers, who went 12-5 in games he played. He ended up averaging 17.4 points and 6.1 assists per game as a Laker during the regular season.

The narrative took a major hit in the playoffs, though. Russell performed well enough in the first two rounds, but his disappearance in the Western Conference finals was a major reason why the Lakers got swept by the eventual the champion Denver Nuggets. Actually, "disappearance" might be generous, as his 10-for-31 shooting (2-for-15 from deep) and inability to stay in front of opponents on defense made him nearly unplayable toward the end, with only 15 minutes played in Game 4.

There were calls to bench Russell midway through the series, but ESPN reported the Lakers were concerned they would "lose" him if they demoted him in such a public fashion. We can now see how that worked out.

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