What happens to the guard rotation when D’Angelo Russell returns?

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 10: D'Angelo Russell
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 10: D'Angelo Russell /

As Newsday’s Greg Logan documents, D’Angelo Russell went through a full practice Monday with the Long Island Nets. His return to the Brooklyn Nets look imminent. This begs the question: what happens to the guard rotation when Russell is back?

In his first 12 games for the Brooklyn Nets this season, D’Angelo Russell looked like a different player. His averages per 36 minutes of 27.1 points, 7.4 assists, and 6.1 assists were all career highs. As was his 46% shooting from the field.

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This was of course in a small sample size, but in Brooklyn’s offense there’s no reason to think it won’t continue. More  importantly, the Nets are sure to let Russell regain his starting role once he returns. This despite the fact that Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert have had success with extended playing time.

Dinwiddie has certainly been a revelation this season, coming from being undrafted. The issue is less with his numbers, and more with his shooting statistics. Overall he’s shooting at 39 percent from the field and 34 percent from three point range. Those numbers drop considerably over his last five games: 31 and 22 percent respectively.

There could be multiple reasons for this decrease. Dinwiddie’s usage is way up, and the league is beginning to defend him much harder off ball screens. Additionally, he’s being relied upon as a primary scorer more and more with the struggles of some of Brooklyn’s other guards.

LeVert is one of those guards. He’s been struggling since his recent return from a groin strain, shooting just 37 percent from the field over his last 10 games. His overall numbers, particular in the six assists per game over those ten, are still very impressive.

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Allen Crabbe has been struggling to find his groove all season, as we’ve previously documented.

Thus, the most logical move when Russell returns is to pair him with Dinwiddie in the starting unit. This takes a lot of pressure off Spencer, and allows Russell to play off the ball more. As Ben Nadeau at Basketball Insiders notes, the Nets have 12 games to go before the trade deadline. They will need these games to evaluate how their two important guards can play together.

The second unit then, would be LeVert, who has had the most success playing point guard, and Crabbe who has come off the bench previously in his career.

If it doesn’t work out, perhaps the Nets could trade Dinwiddie for another first round pick. This could give general manager Sean Marks ammunition to trade into the lottery portion of the draft, or simply give him two shots to draft another impact player as he’s done before.

The Brooklyn Nets will have flexibility when Russell comes back. That’s a good problem to have. The NBA is a wins driven business, however, so every one of the guards will have to step up with less minutes to go around.