As I noted on Wednesday when I singled out a few restricted free agents poised to land lucrative multiyear deals this summer, few RFAs-to-be are better positioned than D’Angelo Russell.
The Nets‘ point guard has enjoyed a breakout season in 2018/19, establishing new career highs in PPG (20.5), APG (6.8), FG% (.436), 3PT% (.368), and a number of other categories. He has been a driving force behind Brooklyn’s push for a playoff spot, and is expected to cash in in a big way during the 2019 offseason.
With that in mind, Michael Scotto of The Athletic spoke to a handful of executives around the NBA to get a sense of what Russell’s market might look like this July. The consensus? He should be among 2019’s highest-paid free agents.
“He has had a great year,” an Eastern Conference general manager said of Russell. “There’s no reason to believe he will not stay at this level.”
“He’s going to be in high demand and will get close to max with his overall improvement,” a Western Conference executive told Scotto.
As our early maximum salary projections for 2019/20 show, based on a $109MM salary cap, Russell could earn a contract worth up to $158.05MM over five years with the Nets. If he signs with another team, his projected max would be $117.18MM over four years. That raises another question: Will the 23-year-old re-sign with Brooklyn or ink an offer sheet with another team, forcing the Nets to make a tough decision?
While Scotto doesn’t explicitly identify any teams that will pursue Russell this offseason, he notes that the Pacers, Suns, and Magic are among the clubs expected to be in the market for a point guard. Indiana has the most cap flexibility of the three, but Phoenix and Orlando could both create the space necessary to pursue Russell, depending on their roster moves.
The Nets also have a history, under GM Sean Marks, of making aggressive offers to rival RFAs, having forced the Heat, Trail Blazers, and Wizards to match big-money deals for Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe, and Otto Porter, respectively. At least one of the executives who spoke to Scotto wondered if another club will turn the tables on Brooklyn this time around.
“I think D’Angelo is worth around $20MM (annually),” the longtime Eastern exec said. “Is this payback time for the Nets? Will teams offer him the way they (Nets) did for Crabbe, Porter, and Johnson? I think he turned the corner. I think he has a chip on his shoulder.”