Brooklyn Nets: Making an All-NBA case for D’Angelo Russell

Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets D'Angelo Russell (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets D’Angelo Russell (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets have made huge strides and even as they fight for their playoff lives, a strong case can be made for an All-NBA nod for D’Angelo Russell.

It’s been a season full of “first-time-since” for the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn enters the final two weeks of the regular season with 38 wins — 10 more than last season and their most since 2014-15 — and D’Angelo Russell has already set a new franchise record for 3-pointers in a season.

Russell achieved one of the more significant “first-time-since” accomplishments when he became the Nets’ first All-Star since Joe Johnson in 2014.

He’s been on an absolute tear of late, per Tommy Beer of NBC/Rotoworld, averaging 34.0 points, 10.8 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 3-pointers made and 2.5 steals per game over Brooklyn’s last four games.

He’s also on a very short list of players to hit certain statistical levels this season.

When there is a two-person list and it’s you and reigning NBA MVP James Harden, you’re in the midst of a very special season.

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It also puts D’Angelo Russell in a position to put one more big “first-time-since” honor on his resume for this season.

As in becoming the Nets’ first All-NBA selection since moving to Brooklyn in 2012 and the franchise’s first in 15 years, since Jason Kidd was named to the first team in 2003-04.

First, let’s be very real and acknowledge there are five mortal locks among NBA guards for All-NBA recognition, in no particular order of merit: Harden, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets will be among the six guards chosen.

It’s very likely Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics, despite missing 13 games thus far due to injury and the Celtics a very underwhelming 44-31 with seven games remaining, will get a lot of support from voters.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that Irving is in the mix for the sixth and final All-NBA slot.

A few of the usual suspects — John Wall of the Washington Wizards, Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers and Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets — have had their seasons wrecked or severely curtailed by injury and won’t receive strong consideration.

Klay Thompson of Golden State nor Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors have had the type of seasons they’ve had in the past that Thompson to back-to-back All-NBA selections in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and Lowry to snag a spot in 2015-16.

Russell has to be considered very much in the discussion at this point. He’s on that short list with Harden with 1,500 points, 500 assists and 200 3-pointers. He’s been durable, missing just one game thus far this season and that was via a coach’s decision to rest him.

He’s averaging 20.9 points, 7.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 30.3 minutes per game this season — career-highs by significant margins in the first two categories — and has been the best player for one of the most-improved teams in the NBA this season.

The Milwaukee Bucks are the most-improved team in terms of increase in victories from 2017-18, already up 12 wins from 44 last season to 56 (and counting) this year. But the Bucks don’t have a guard who would fit in the All-NBA debate.

Next on the most-improved list are the Nets and Sacramento Kings, each 10 victories better than last season with work left to do in 2018-19. De’Aaron Fox has had a nice season for the Kings, but he’s not at the All-NBA level yet.

Aside from Irving, selected one time previously in 2014-15, there is no one among the list of contenders for that last spot that have been elected before.

Besides Russell, arguments can be made for Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, Bradley Beal of Washington and Lou Williams of the LA Clippers, although there has only been one Sixth Man of the Year winner named All-NBA the same season as he won the award — Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs in 2007-08.

Since coming to the NBA in 1976, the Nets have had only five players named to All-NBA teams: Kidd (three times, 2001-02 through 2003-04), Derrick Coleman twice (1992-93 and 1993-84) Buck Williams (1982-83), Drazen Petrovic (1992-93) and Stephon Marbury (1999-2000).

Can D’Angelo Russell become the sixth? Let’s look at the tale of the tape.