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Lakers Rumors: Latest Trade Talk, Free-Agency and Predraft Buzz for Los Angeles

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2016

Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) in actions during the second half of an NBA basketball game against Orlando Magic Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Los Angeles.  Lakers won 107-98. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

The 2016 offseason needs to be a big one if the Los Angeles Lakers are going to return to respectability under new head coach Luke Walton. 

Not a big offseason as in the "swing for the fences" moves that are always bandied about when it comes to L.A., but one with several smart choices that rebuild a roster in desperate need of retooling. 

Of course, that all starts with the 2016 NBA draft on Thursday night when the Lakers go on the clock with the No. 2 pick. What they decide to do with that pick, who they decide to trade (or keep) and who they will target in free agency this offseason will go a long way in determining what the team will look like down the road. 

Here's a look at the latest buzz on the moves the Lakers will make (or not make) in the coming days. 

D'Angelo Russell Staying Put

Mar 23, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace (37) and guard D'Angelo Russell (1) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Lakers 119-107. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Spor
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, it doesn't appear as though D'Angelo Russell will be leaving L.A as a result of the Nick Young video. 

ESPN's Chad Ford initially reported on SportsCenter (via CBS Sports' James Herbert) that the Lakers could pursue an additional top-five pick in the draft by dealing guard D'Angelo Russell because he has "burned some bridges in the locker room."

Without dismissing the idea of team chemistry, this would be a questionable move by Los Angeles. At just 20 years old, Russell is one of the few assets the team has to build around, and he flashed potential in his rookie campaign. He averaged 13.2 points per game and finished with a 13.2 player efficiency rating despite receiving inconsistent minutes from then-head coach Byron Scott, per Basketball-Reference.com

Fortunately for the Lakers, it appears as though rumors about Russell's departure are unfounded. General manager Mitch Kupchak has assured Russell that the organization believes in him and won't be moving him, according to Serena Winters of Laker Nation:

Serena Winters @SerenaWinters

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak reassures D’Angelo Russell not to worry about trade talks: https://t.co/LdXpBjuYew

Regardless of the shaky impression he left with some of the veterans in the locker room last season, Russell is a guard who has at least proved he has the ability to play right now. In a draft that is considered a two-player affair between LSU's Ben Simmons and Duke's Brandon Ingram, acquiring another top-five player isn't a guarantee of future success. 

Dumping a player of Russell's caliber to appease a locker room that mostly consists of players who won't be around by the time L.A. turns thing around would be questionable. It appears for now that the Lakers will avoid making that mistake. 

Team Expected To Keep No. 2 Pick, Take Brandon Ingram

If you're looking to watch the draft Thursday night, you can tune in a little late. The top two picks already appear to be predetermined.

The Philadelphia 76ers have reportedly told Ben Simmons he will be the top choice on draft night, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Chad Ford reported the Lakers will take Ingram, barring an unforeseen trade offer:

Chad Ford @chadfordinsider

Barring a last minute blockbuster trade offer, the Lakers intend to select Brandon Ingram #2 league sources tell me & @ramonashelburne

This is about as close to a lock as you can find when it comes to offseason talk. It makes too much sense for the Lakers to continue to stockpile young assets rather than try to turn things around in one year with a blockbuster trade. 

The Lakers are better off following the Cleveland Cavaliers' route, which means collecting young talent and hoping they can sign a big free agent down the road. 

Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report discussed Ingram's fit with the Lakers in the long term in the video below:

Wasserman sees the small forward as more Paul George than Kevin Durant, and that's actually good news for the Lakers. Ingram's ability to play off the ball allows him to be a complementary piece to playmakers such as Russell, while the Lakers wait for his frame to fill out and increase his role on the team. 

Ingram is a great fit for the Lakers. They would be wise to turn off their phones and do the smart thing after the Sixers presumably take Simmons. 

Al Horford Will Be a Target in Free Agency

The Lakers might be in a rebuilding stage, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be players in free agency. They have plenty of money to spend this offseason and still have enough left over to make a play at the free-agency class in 2017, which includes Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward. 

Here's a look at who they have on contract for 2017, per Spotrac:

Lakers Under Contract for 2017-18
PlayerAgeSalaryNotes
Louis Williams29$7,000,000
Nick Young31$5,668,667Player Option
D'Angelo Russell20$5,562,360Team Option
Julius Randle24$4,149,242Team Option
Larry Nance Jr.23$1,259,640Team Option
Anthony Brown23$1,014,746Non-guaranteed
Total Salary24,654,655
Projected Cap Space$82,345,345
Spotrac

That's a ton of cap space that will be available for that class, which still allows L.A. to pursue free agents this summer to make the team more desirable in the future. 

It looks like the Lakers are prepared to do exactly that. According to ESPN's Mark Stein, the Lakers are among several clubs that are interested in Hawks big man Al Horford:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Free Agency Rumble: Orlando, Detroit and the Lakers are all among the teams that intend to make a run at Atlanta big man Al Horford.

Horford actually makes a lot of sense for the Lakers. They need both a true center and veteran leadership. 

The big man would provide both, as he's been a mainstay on several Hawks playoff teams and can play the 5 for Luke Walton. To say the Lakers are going to attempt to pattern their roster to be an exact replica of the Warriors is lazy, but they will try to play an uptempo style. 

The Warriors were No. 2 in pace last regular season, per NBA.com. Horford's Hawks were also near the top of the league at No. 8, so he's used to playing in an open system that pushes the pace. 

Adding Horford won't be easy, though. According to Stein, the Hawks are looking to unload both of their first-round picks in order to re-sign him. 

However, the fact that other teams will be willing to throw the max at him will test L.A.'s ability to attract free agents. 

It could be an intriguing preview of what's to come next season when the Lakers will be one of the teams with the most money to spend. Nevertheless, the rebuilding process could take some big steps this offseason. 

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