D’Angelo Russell has to emerge as a star
D’Angelo Russell has the highest expectations heading into next season for the Brooklyn Nets. In his first season with Brooklyn, Russell proved he can really light up the scoreboard and run Brooklyn’s offense adequately.
On the offensive end, the Nets point guard excelled in head coach Kenny Atkinson’s pace-and-space offense. He can be a dangerous shooter from behind the arc despite shooting only 32.4 percent last season. He can shoot the 3 ball off-the-dribble and as a spot up shooter.
Russell was one of Brooklyn’s most prolific 3-point shooters last season, averaging 5.8 attempts per game, and was a go-to option when Brooklyn needed three points on the board.
Another area of the floor Russell thrived in was his mid-range game. Not only did Russell shoot the ball at 46.7 percent from 10-16 feet and 45.6 percent from 16 feet to the 3-point line, but he added a dangerous driving game in that area of the floor.
Before his knee injury, Russell took on contact when driving wanting to end the play with three point on the board. He finished well through contact and did a pretty good job finishing with both hands at the rim.
One area on the offensive end that was overlooked was his passing game. Yes, Russell can sometimes be careless with the ball, but he can also pass the ball at a high level. He made great cutting passes to his driving teammates and good kick-out passes to his outside shooters.
Now, he will have to improve on his passing and perfect his decision making. That could be a quick fix due to what Marks added to the Nets this offseason. He added good frontcourt players who can play aggressively and score.
Now, let’s get into what Russell needs to improve on in order to emerge as a star. His leadership skills will be heavily tested next season. The Nets point guard will be the face of the franchise next season and must be their leader.
He is still a young point guard in this league, but he needs to become the leader of this team not just for Brooklyn to make the playoffs, but to be in the conversation for a max contract in 2019.
The newest Brooklyn Net, Jared Dudley, has already spoken to Russell about emerging as the clear leader for this team. According to Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily, Dudley called Russell, talking to him about being the leader of this team.
Russell getting support from his teammate on being the leader is a huge plus for the point guard. Dudley acknowledges that Russell is the best fit for this role and if Russell can thrive as the leader, he can reach that NBA star conversation.
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Another fix Russell needs to work on is his defense. Last season, Russell would commonly have opposing point guard either move the ball too easily down low or blow past him. This cannot happen regularly next season.
Even though Brooklyn built up their frontcourt well this offseason, the Nets cannot afford the ball to be moved down low easily. If Russell can put on high-pressure defense throughout the season, it will have a big impact.
Russell’s defense was not bad last season. He was a good steal threat for the Nets last season and read the opposing offense well. Now, if he puts on that defensive pressure throughout games next season, he will become an elite guard defender for Brooklyn.
Russell is not the only player who has to step it up next season. He does have the most pressure next season to step it up but there’s one other player who needs to take his game to that extra level.