Could D’Angelo Russell Become An All-Star This Season?

BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 26: D'Angelo Russell
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 26: D'Angelo Russell /

As you may have heard, a little over a month ago the Brooklyn Nets acquired a talented combo guard by the name of D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers. With the addition, the Nets added three important components: youth, scoring and a potential franchise cornerstone.

The Lakers drafted Russell second overall in the 2015 Draft. They had hoped that he would be the successor to Kobe Bryant. Lakers executives wanted him to lead the historically great Los Angeles franchise back to glory for years to come.

Through his first two seasons in the league, Russell showed promise in his game. He gave Lakers fans a reason to be excited about the future. However, the Lakers front office could not ignore his inconsistency and off the court issues. In turn, they decided to move on from the 21 year-old guard and trade him to Brooklyn along with Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma.

Not only is this a great move for Brooklyn, but it should also be a great move for Russell’s career. Because of this move, it opens the door even wider for both future and immediate success for the guard. And as ludicrous as it may seem to some, this success could come as early as next season; say, in the shape of an All-Star spot?

Yes, it may seem a bit too optimistic, but lets really look at this for what it is. D’Angelo Russell has shown major progress since entering the league two years ago. Below are his stats from both his rookie and sophomore seasons (per ESPN):

          2015-2016          2016-2017

MPG       28.2                        28.7

PPG        13.2                        15.6

APG          3.3                           4.8

RPG          3.4                           3.5

SPG          1.2                           1.4

Are these monstrous jumps? No, but it’s progress nonetheless. He up’d his numbers in basically all categories. If we look at last season’s per 36 minutes statistics, Russell’s numbers jump to 19.6 points, 6.0 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. His numbers are not too different from some of the guards from the East in last season’s All Star Game.

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Looking at the stats, Russell’s per 36 minutes averages of 19.6 points is only 2 less than Kyle Lowry, 6.0 assists is .5 more than Kemba Walker, 4.4 rebounds is about 1 more than Kyrie Irving and 1.7 steals is 1 more than Isaiah Thomas. All of these players averaged around 36 minutes per game on the season.

With Russell heading to Brooklyn, averaging around 36 minutes is very likely as he will be thrust into the starting lineup. Whats more, he will clearly be the best scoring option on the roster, thus making him the focal point of the offense a majority of the time. Because of this, Russell’s scoring numbers could skyrocket to exponential heights.

On the Lakers, Russell never found himself as the main offensive weapon. In his first year, Russell had Kobe Bryant on his farewell tour, chucking up shots like he was, well, Kobe Bryant. Last season, he was also the second option behind Lou Williams. Now, it is likely he’ll hold the reigns to the offense which, again, bodes well for his scoring numbers.

What makes an All-Star bid that much more likely for Russell is the fact that he’s moving over to a very depleted Eastern Conference in terms of talent. This summer has been sensational in regards to entertainment, as there have been trades going on left and right. However, a lot of the trades have had a huge impact on the East, and not in a good way. It seems as though a large majority of the talented players in the East have been shipped out West; Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves, Paul George to the Thunder, Paul Millsap to the Nuggets. The list goes on!

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What’s more crazy is that these transactions to the West may not be done just yet. Carmelo Anthony seems to be on his way out of New York and headed to his preferred destination of Houston in the coming weeks.

The most recent buzz on the rumor mill is about the desire of Kyrie Irving to be traded away from Cleveland, and he has listed the San Antonio Spurs as a preferred landing spot. San Antonio wants a point guard, and have the assets to acquire him, so this could very well be the future home for Irving.

If these aforementioned trades happen, the East will lose two more of their premier players to the West, opening up a total of five roster spots for the conferences All-Star team.

An All-Star roster bid will not just fall into Russell’s lap however. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication to even be considered. Luckily for D’Angelo, hard work and dedication is his “bread and butter”. Here’s what head coach Luke Walton had to say about Russell last season (per ‘‘):

"“His work ethic and his desire to play the way we want him to play, and his competitive nature have been incredible in the short amount of time that me and my staff have been down here.”"

This work ethic has come with him to Brooklyn, with no time-delay. Within the first few days of being a Net, Russell was seen at the HSS Training Center in Brooklyn working on his game. Videos of his reported late night workouts have surfaced, showing Nets fans exactly what they want to see from their newly acquired guard; hard work.

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The grind is real for D’Angelo Russell. He has said countless times that he wants to show the league exactly what he’s capable of accomplishing. Is an All-Star caliber 2017-2018 season within reach for Russell? With his anticipated improvement and a less than stellar Eastern Conference, I wouldn’t necessarily bet against it. Magic Johnson has even stated that Russell has the talent to be a perennial All-Star in this league. With comments like this said by the greatest to ever play the position, I’d take them quite seriously.

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While Magic may have been referring to a few years down the road when making this claim, looking at the position Russell is currently in, it could become a reality sooner rather than later.