Brooklyn Nets: D’Angelo Russell reminds us why he was a No. 2 pick

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

For 14 scintillating minutes in the second half Monday night, Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell reminded everyone why he was a No. 2 overall draft pick.

D’Angelo Russell was the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2015 NBA Draft. Acquired by the Brooklyn Nets in 2017, Russell showed in a big second half Monday night why he was so highly regarded.

Russell had a fairly pedestrian showing on Wednesday in the preseason opener against the New York Knicks, finishing with 11 points and three assists in 20 minutes, shooting 4-for-12 overall and 1-for-4 from 3-point range.

In the first half Monday against the Detroit Pistons, it was more of the same. In 13 minutes in the opening two periods, Russell was just 2-for-7 overall and 1-for-4 from deep, scoring five points with one assist as the Nets held a 50-43 lead at the break.

But Russell flipped the switch at halftime.

In seven minuted during the third period, DLo scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, canning 3-of-4 from deep, helping to keep the Nets in the game as Detroit erupted for 36 points in the period to close their deficit to 80-79.

Russell played seven minutes in the fourth quarter as well, hitting 4-of-8 en route to nine points.

He finished the 110-108 overtime victory with a game-high 25 points in 32 minutes, going 10-for-22 overall and 5-for-13 from long range.

As he prepared to enter his fourth season in the NBA, it’s become clear that as a point guard, Russell is much more scorer than shot creator. He finished with just the single assist on Monday and in his first three seasons has averaged 4.3 helpers per game.

Last season’s 5.2 mark was the best of his young career. So, no, Russell won’t likely be replacing Steve Nash or Chris Paul or John Stockton in anyone’s mind as a facilitator at the point.

Russell shared some floor time Monday with Spencer Dinwiddie, who led the Nets in assists last season and finished with three dimes in 21 minutes against Detroit.

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  • And Caris LeVert also played well in the role of playmaker, dishing out a team-high eight assists for the Nets in the victory while also scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

    This is a huge season for Russell, who likely will not be offered an extension of his rookie contract, which expires at season’s end.

    He’s had a couple of seasons shortened by knee woes, missing 19 games with the Lakers in 2016-17 before being sidelined for 34 games last season with Brooklyn after requiring arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

    The injury last season was not related to the troubles he had with his knees as a Laker, which could be good or it could be worrisome if it is part of an overall trend of just having problematic knees.

    A career 34.4 percent shooter from 3-point range, Russell hit only 32.4 from deep last season for Brooklyn. He showed confidence and range on Monday and if he can up that percentage into the 37-39 percent range, Russell becomes a much more dangerous weapon.

    That’s because his game is so heavily predicated on what he can do penetrating and scoring. If defenders have to respect his 3-point ability more, it creates more space for him to attack the rim.

    I’m not entirely sold on Russell as the future star of the Brooklyn Nets, but performances like he had in the second half Monday night in Detroit make such an outcome much easier to see as a potential reality.

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    If he can produce like that on a consistent basis, D’Angelo Russell will set himself up for a big payday — either with Brooklyn or somewhere else — about nine months from now.