Brooklyn Nets

TBG Player Preview 2017-18: D’Angelo Russell

D'Angelo Russell YES Interview

Sarah Kustok Interviews D’Angelo Russell, via NBA.com/Nets

D’Angelo Russell, Guard

2016-17: 28.7 MPG, 15.6 PPG, .447%, .352%, 3.5 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 63 G

Who is D’Angelo Russell?

The positivity coming into the beginning of the 2017-18 season for the Brooklyn Nets and fans alike seems almost foreign. For the first time in a long time, the Nets look like they could be fun. There are a few reasons for this, but we are reviewing one of the main ones: D’Angelo Russell. Russell was traded to the Nets in June 2017 together with Timofey Mozgov in exchange for Brook Lopez and the No. 27 pick in the 2017 draft (Kyle Kuzma). 

Russell brings in a level of talent that Sean Marks has been denied due to the mistakes of the past. Without getting the draft reward that usually comes with being bad, the Nets have had to get creative to be able to bring in a player who at 21 years old could still be anything. Hopes are high that the addition of D-Loading can haul this team into its next era of success.

It’s hard to remember in recent history a top-5 draft pick moving to his second team so quickly into his career with the amount of baggage that Russell has. The Nick Young-Iggy Azalea saga was well played out, and we won’t delve too deep back into the details, but it’s worth referencing. This is to put not only his trade as damaged Laker goods but Russell’s mindset going into this season in perspective. With this behind him, we can break down his fit with the Nets for what they hope is potentially the next 5-10 years.

At only 19 years old, Russell was drafted by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick, and entered a unique scenario given the ‘Kobe Bryant Farewell Season.’ What could have been seen as a nice opportunity to grow and mature as a young professional behind one of the best to ever play, quickly turned into what seemed to be an overall negative environment for his growth under coach Byron Scott. Question marks started to come quickly as the Lakers continued to sloth through both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, despite Russell putting up very respectable numbers given his age and position (Russell’s per 36-minute rookie numbers compare to those of Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul). 

In the end, whether it was new Lakers management, Russell’s potential leadership qualities, or the incoming Lonzo Ball, Russell was available, and now residing in Brooklyn Russell can hit the reset button and re-launch his career. 

This is a win-win for the Nets and Russell, a clean slate as you will, for him to let his basketball do the talking as the case always should have been. We are quick to forget that Russell is actually younger than about half of the players picked in this past draft, a young player pushed into showtime but ready to learn from his mistakes. The Nets don’t really care about what he has done, only what he can do from here on in, and from the small sample so far the return could be in spades.

2016-17 Recap

Russell marginally improved in his sophomore year but maybe not in the way the Lakers had hoped, hence why he is now being reviewed on The Brooklyn Game! Still, his basic counting statistics are a promising platform. His 4.8 assists per game is something he can potentially build upon and was a hallmark of his game coming out of college. This was highlighted in an episode of ESPN’s Sport Science:

Scoring-wise, he has shown a large array of potential and this is what will get Nets fans excited. His advanced shooting stats don’t show any real proficiency in a certain shooting weapon, but rather he can score in a large number of ways. Pull up, off the dribble, catch and shoot… they are all tools he is slowly perfecting and building into his arsenal. 

A recap of the 2016-17 season for Russell is not as relevant compared to other Nets. Fans and coaches alike are focused on this season upcoming. What his 2016-17 season will be is hopefully a platform from which Russell can post career highs in multiple categories.

What does Russell bring to the table?

Russell brings in a ceiling level of talent that is hard to find in any other player on this roster. This is meant as no disrespect to any other Brooklyn Net, but outside of the unknown in Caris LeVert, there’s hard to pinpoint anyone else that could potentially shift into the elite of the NBA. Being a No. 2 draft pick means that people already look at him through a different lens than one may use for other players, knowing that there’s a reason he was judged with having that potential and went so high in the lottery. This may be fair or unfair, but is natural.
 
When one watches Russell play, there’s a certain X-factor about him. His shooting motion is a unique curl that one will grow to love – soft and almost effortless. His catch and shoot three-point percentage was 37.2 percent last season, a number that could trend up with the spacing and shooting expected to be on the floor at times with the Nets. Also, sharing a backcourt with Jeremy Lin could prove as a handy support where he can play off the ball at times. D-Loading seems to be capable of bringing back that clutch gene that left the Nets with the exit of Joe Jesus, shooting an EFG% of 43 percent when the shot clock was under four seconds last season. 

While preseason is the only taste of Brooklyn Russell basketball we have (and should be taken with a grain of salt), what we do get is a sneak peek into some of the ways Russell will mesh in certain rotations and how some of the offense will be run through him. The examples so far have definitely been positive with the Nets going 3-1 in preseason and Russell showing a glimpse of things to come, leading the team in scoring for three of these games. 

Highlight Reel

It will be nice to see this with him in the black and white rather than against Brooklyn: 

The Bottom Line

The Nets are now finally in the business of selling more than just patience, but hope. Russell is the type of player fans have been yearning to root for and I’ve already got my Russell jersey waiting for me on the season opener. There still may be growing pains as he becomes the leader, or how he may mesh with Lin in a tandem backcourt, but that’s fine. Time is still on his side. I for one can’t wait for that first magical moment where Russell delivers the dagger, looks down the barrel of the camera and announces himself again to the world. This time though it will be wearing the black and white, yet muttering those same four magical words: “Ice in my veins.”

The Brooklyn Game Player Previews: 

Quincy Acy

Jarrett Allen

Trevor Booker

DeMarre Carroll

Allen Crabbe

Spencer Dinwiddie

Joe Harris

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Sean Kilpatrick

Caris LeVert

Jeremy Lin

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