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Dejounte Murray: Three potential trade destinations


Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Since the long-awaited Pascal Siakam trade was finally completed, the rumor mill has been dominated by stories of the Lakers’ dogged pursuit of Murray. They are his loudest suitor, he is their “top priority”, and he is certainly a logical one. 27 years old, entering his prime, and on an acquirable (albeit not insubstantial) contract, Murray’s ability to be both primary and secondary ball-handler augurs well with LeBron James’s unselfishness and workload management, while providing defensive help on all types of opposing guards.

For the Lakers, D’Angelo Russell is also a logical trade piece, having re-signed over the summer to a deal that would have entitled him to have the right to veto any trade he is in, had he not vetoed that right. This decision can only have been the result of negotiations made at the time, ones telegraphing the intent – or at least, the likelihood – of him being made available in trade. Russell has been on the table since the day he re-signed, and thus has been the assumed starting point of the whole discussion.

There is however one clear sticking point; the fact that the Hawks do not want to take Russell in trade. It is not meant as an indictment on Russell as an individual; rather, in being a ball-dominant, creative scoring type with spotty defense and an inclination to gravitate towards the ball rather than moving off it, Russell replicates Young’s style, without getting to quite his level. It therefore would be a bad use of the limited salary spending, trade assets and Murray’s premium spot on the market for the Hawks to get back someone they do not much need, at a time when they need to hit on a deal quite urgently.

In addition to this, Russell’s own play has improved to the point that a Murray trade is not seen as the automatic upgrade it once was. Since moving back into the starting lineup eight games ago, he has averaged 27.5 points and 6.4 assists per game, shooting 52.3 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from three-point range. The Lakers would still like to have Murray, but a Russell of this caliber makes it less of a requirement. Nevertheless, all reports indicate that the Lakers are still in for him, and he is certainly still available in talks.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In theory, the Lakers do not have to base a trade package for Murray around Russell. In terms of both salary and talent, they could very easily engage the Hawks on a deal centered around Austin Reaves. But this is not happening. Reaves – understandably, yet perhaps excessively – has been deemed off limits for all but the game’s very best, a level outside of Murray’s reach. Rightly or wrongly, this appears to be steadfast.

From a financial perspective, in order to salary-match Murray’s $18,214,000 2023-24 salary, deals can also be based around Rui Hachimura ($15,740,741) or Gabe Vincent ($10,500,000). From the point of view of their trade capital – which the Hawks are said to be seeking, given their shortage in that department as a result of the trade to bring Murray in – the Lakers are not the best team to ask, given their own shortages in this area.

The challenge, then, is to either find a third team that will take on Russell instead, or to try and cook something up around Rui and Vincent, neither of which has Russell’s trade value (and in the case of the latter, is said to have merely the equivalent value of second-round picks). It is not easy to do. The Lakers do however seem the likeliest destination for Murray, given the lengthy commitment to talks.

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