Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell has been everything and more for the new-look Nets.
After acquiring the former 2015 first round pick in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, which sent Nets fans’ favorite Brook Lopez and a first-round pick to Los Angeles in exchange for Russell and Timofey Mozgov at first, it seems that the Lakers won the trade.
Russell was unable to reach his full potential in LA. The hinderance on his potential was caused by high expectations, strong media pressure and a little bit of Mea Culpa.
Following the retirement of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and a slew of incidents (most notably with Nick Young), he was slotted to move the franchise in the right direction. However, his inability to lead the team and frequent showcases of immaturity made the upper management and teammates lose confidence in him.
The criticism was also fueled by comparing Russell’s progress with 2015 draft counterparts Karl Anthony Towns and Devin Booker. Although their teams were as much disappointing as the Lakers, both Towns and Booker were more proficient on the court.
Drafting Top Picks Doesn’t Mean Guaranteed Titles
Aside from playing in a city that requires winning due to its successful tradition, there were a plethora of first-round picks assembled around the young guard who were supposed to help the Lakers make progress in the heavily talented Western Conference.
The formulation of first-round picks Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr, Brandon Ingram and second-round pick Jordan Clarkson may have stunted the growth of Russell. The young prospect had to adjust his game in order to effectively incorporate all the vital picks into the Lakers offense.
The amalgamation was never fully successful and Russell was the ultimate victim. However, many NBA experts, including David Aldridge, immediately foreshadowed Russell having a great season after the trade.
Russell will get every chance in Brooklyn to make plays and show he’s worthy of the second overall pick, with much less pressure on him.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 20, 2017
Finally, we’re starting to see exactly what NBA executives and scouts saw in him coming out of Ohio State.
In his first two seasons with the Lakers, Russell averaged 13 points with 3 assists and 15 points with 4 assists. These numbers were very disappointing considering his terrific production in college.
2018 has been great so far as improvements have been made all across the board. As the new face of the Brooklyn Nets, Russell is averaging 21 points along with 5 assists despite key injuries to backcourt mates Jeremy Lin and Spencer Dinwiddie.
Evidently, the lesser expectations of Brooklyn have allowed Russell to thrive. The change is apparent in his demeanor and production on the court.
Currently, he’s ahead of superstars John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson and Carmelo Anthony in points per game. In field goal percentage, he’s shooting 46% from the field, placing him second only to Thompson who’s shooting a video game-like 50%.
Unfortunately, due to the Paul Pierce trade in 2013, the Nets are stuck without a first round pick in 2018. Thus, they’ll have to stick with the current group and figure out their place in the Eastern Conference.
The likelihood of the Nets making the playoffs will be slim to none, but Russell’s endless potential and growth will at least entertain the Barclays Center and many other NBA fans this year.