It’s becoming more apparent D’Angelo Russell needed a change of scenery. In his second year with the Brooklyn Nets, he is having an All-Star-like resurgence.
When Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks traded away Brook Lopez in June 2017, he got a player in desperate need of a change of scenery in D’Angelo Russell. And so far it looks like that change of scenery is paying off, as Russell is playing at an All-Star-like level.
D’Angelo Russell was part of the 2015 draft class which included Jahlil Okafor and Kristaps Porzingis. The Los Angeles Lakers selected Russell with the second overall pick. Russell was highly touted out of Ohio State.
During his rookie year, he averaged just over 13 points and three assists per game. He also had some big moments too, including his famous “ice in my veins” game, which coincidentally came against the Nets.
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In that game, Russell dropped 39 points, including a few clutch 3s late in the game.
However, his rookie season took a turn for the worst and it had nothing to do with anything happening on the court. In late March 2016, a video surfaced on social media where Russell was filming a private conversation between him and then-teammate Nick Young.
The conversation was about Young (Swaggy P) and then-girlfriend Iggy Azalia. The backlash from the video being released not only sent a ripple through the relationship between Nick and Iggy, but also the Lakers’ locker room.
Although in Russell’s sophomore season his scoring, rebounding and assists went up, there still didn’t seem to be much cohesion or trust between himself and the organization as a whole.
Heading into the 2017 draft, it seemed apparent that the Lakers were going to draft Lonzo Ball, which didn’t bode well for Russell. On the night of the draft, Russell was traded to Brooklyn and his tenure as a Laker was over.
D’Angelo Russell was Marks’ first major acquisition. Before that Marks had been slowly but surely trying to replenish the Nets’ empty cabinet of draft picks. In trading for Russell, he not only got a former lottery player.
As the team headed into the 2017-18 season, Brooklyn was going to run a guard rotation spearheaded by Russell and Jeremy Lin. However, that quickly faded as Lin tore his right patella tendon in the season opener.
For the first month and a half of the 2017-18 season, Russell played up to his lottery-pick status. He averaged 20.9 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game, all while shooting 46.3 percent from the field.
Russell then hit a roadblock when he missed a few games with a right knee contusion. He then required surgery on that knee to remove “loose bodies.” This sidelined Russell until mid-January.
D’Angelo slowly worked his way back into form and became a more consistent player as the season went on and his minutes increased. He ended last season averaging 15.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.
This season Russell looks to be on a mission, especially as of late. The combination of Russell and Caris LeVert early in the season was looking very promising until LeVert’s gruesome injury. However, since LeVert’s injury, D’Angelo seems to have picked up the slack.
In the last eight games, Russell is averaging 21.1 points, 6.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. He is also shooting 36.7 percent from 3 point range and better than 80 percent from the free throw line. Russell has also started taking over games with his scoring at times.
In the Nets’ comeback win against Miami, he was the go-to guy down the stretch, scoring at will in the fourth quarter.
In the Nets’ last loss to the Philadelphia 76ers at home, Russell lit up the score sheet for 38 points. In fact, Russell’s stat line from that night made him the fourth Nets player since 2000 to have 35-8-8 in a game.
The only players to do that in a game this season so far have been LeBron James, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Nikola Jokic. The absence of LeVert has definitely played a factor in Russell’s aggressiveness as of late.
Although Russell has been playing very as of late, the one knock on him this season so far has been his consistency. There have been quite a few times where he has had a nice scoring game and then the next game become almost non-existent on the offensive side.
Russell is currently the fifth-highest scoring point guard in the Eastern Conference at 17.8 points per game. He is also eighth in assists, as well as second in made 3-point field goals.
Russell’s play isn’t like most guards in the NBA. He isn’t going to wow the crowd with a dribbling exhibition or fly through the air for a highlight-reel dunk. There’s a very workmanlike feel to his game.
He does have a habit of taking bad shots every once in a while, but sometimes you need a player who isn’t afraid to try and put the team on his back.
With Caris LeVert not coming back anytime soon, Brooklyn will lean on Russell to become the leader they envisioned when they traded for him.
If Russell can continue his steady play while possibly increasing his scoring, there’s a good chance Brooklyn could have a representative in the All-Star Game.