80 million over four years? What’s the right price for the Lakers to keep Russell?

The Lakers’ winning streak is over.

The Lakers had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 112-108 loss to the Knicks.

The Lakers, who led by one point after three quarters, were outscored 21-10 by the Knicks early in the fourth, but had too little time left to settle for a loss.

Despite the loss, Russell had a team-high plus-minus of 14 with 33 points, five rebounds and eight assists on 13-of-19 shooting and 6-of-11 three-point shooting in 35 minutes.
Russell had 23 points in the first half and 31 by the end of three quarters, but the Knicks were on their way when Russell returned in the fourth, his own shooting slide and the Lakers’ lack of clarity and defense led to a loss.

Russell has been on fire for the second straight game since returning to the lineup. In the Lakers’ last win over the Raptors, Russell was 10 of 17 from the field and 5 of 8 from 3-point range for 28 points, five rebounds and nine assists, including 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Lakers to a crucial victory.

It’s worth noting that after the win over the Raptors, Lakers reporter Jovan Buha engaged with fans on social media about Russell’s future. “I think $80 million over four years is probably reasonable in the long run, but he may want more than that,” Buha wrote. For a shorter deal (say, two or three years), I’d be more than willing to pay more than $20 million a year, while also keeping him in line with lebron and AD’s timeline.”

Russell is on a contract year this season, and one of the reasons he and the Timberwolves had trouble agreeing on an extension was that the Lakers would want to keep Russell after he was traded to the Lakers, but Jovan Buha’s $80 million over four years is a little short.

Russell has played in five other games since joining the Lakers, excluding the one game he left early due to injury (two points, four rebounds and three assists in nine minutes against the Warriors);

— 15 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists on 6-of-12 shooting against the Warriors

— Had 16 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists on 7-of-16 shooting against Portland

— Pelicans, 21 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists on 5-for-12 shooting

— 28 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists on 10-for-17 shooting against the Raptors

— Had 33 points, five rebounds and eight assists on 13-of-19 shooting against the Knicks

In those five games, Russell is averaging 22.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game, shooting 53.9 percent from the field, 48.6 percent from three-point range, 82.4 percent from the free throw line, and committing just 2.4 turnovers.

For comparison, Russell averaged 17.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 6.2 assists in 54 games with the Timberwolves before he was traded to the Lakers this season, shooting 46.5%/39.1%/85.6% from the floor with 2.7 turnovers and shooting 60.4% from the floor.

Before the Timberwolves trade, Russell was having one of the most productive seasons of his career, never shooting better than 56 percent, and after the trade to the Lakers, even though the sample was not large enough, with only five healthy games, Russell’s five games were almost All-Star, especially on shooting. Russell is shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range, which is a huge addition to the Lakers’ weak shooting.

For the Lakers, Russell’s role can also be seen in the numbers after the trade deadline:

— With Russell on the court, the Lakers outscored opponents by 11.5 points on 100 possessions

Without Russell, the Lakers outscored opponents by 0.2 points on 100 possessions

Again, not enough samples, but based on limited play, Russell’s addition does make the Lakers more competitive, and if he, James and Brow are healthy and well-matched, with a roster of role players who can play, playoff contention or even a championship is not out of the question.

Obviously, $80 million over four years is a little too much for a would-be All-Star, and the fact is, after being reminded by fans, Jovan Buha quickly backtracked: “Russell could also get over $80 million, and I’m talking about what I’m comfortable with. I think four years at $120 million is a little bit too much because he’s been at a sub-All-Star level for the last couple of years. I could be wrong considering he doesn’t have much impact in free agency.

80 million in 4 years is low, as for 120 million in 4 years… It looks a little high, but compared to Shiro and Poole, it doesn’t seem too big for Russell, a former All-Star who is currently in his prime at 27, especially considering the potential for further salary cap increases.

Of course, both the Lakers and Russell should focus on the rest of the season — the loss to the Knicks dropped the Lakers back to 11th in the Western Conference, and given that they don’t have an advantage over the Jazz or Thunder, each game must be taken seriously in case they don’t make the play-offs. It would be difficult for the Lakers to give Russell a satisfactory offer.

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