Unappreciated Players: D’Angelo Russell

D’Angelo Russell has improved almost every aspect of his game this season. Ever since D-Lo was traded back in 2017, he has seen his career trajectory point up. He was traded from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Brooklyn Nets, which at the time, seemed like a great trade for the Lakers. The trade was Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick (who turned out to be Kyle Kuzma) for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. Lopez left in free-agency, but Kuzma has been one of the biggest draft-day steals in recent history. D-Lo, on the other hand, has done very well this past season and I don’t think he gets enough recognition. The Lakers didn’t give him enough time to get used to the offense or even take over. Over the two seasons he was in LA, he showed glimpses of potential but never really did what the Lakers expected. To be fair, his rookie season was Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour, so that season was a wash from the start. But he hit game-winners and showed off his iconic “Ice in my veins” celebration. That is still one of my favorite celebrations in the game. Then Magic Johnson came into the picture in 2017, and he was going to turn around the Lakers franchise and get two huge, star free-agents in a loaded free-agent class. One of his first moves was shipping off D’Angelo. This move would prove to be detrimental to the current Lakers. Magic justified this trade by saying they needed a leader.

The next season, the Lakers go onto land LeBron James and a variety of veterans. D’Angelo Russell was coming off a decent season where he was often injured as he only played 48 games and saw no real improvement from his previous season. Then during the current season, he explodes for 21.5 points per game on 43.4% from the field, 36.9% from behind the arc, 7 assists a game, and 3.9 rebounds a game. These were all either career highs or career high tying stats. (Rebounds were a tied career high) He has been amazing this season, he was even named an East all-star for the first time in his career as well as leading the Brooklyn Nets to the playoffs. D-Lo’s game looks smooth, he operates efficiently and he also just looks much more confident than he was in LA.

As for Magic Johnson’s comments about D-Lo’s lack of leadership, he was wrong. He was able to lead a Nets team that no one saw in the playoffs. They weren’t supposed to be here in the post-season, yet here they are. D-Lo was able to lead them to this position. They were the sixth seed by the end of the season and they were able to rack up 42 wins, which is the first time since the 2013 season, they are above .500. The Nets have been impressive all season, I believe they will beat the Philadelphia 76er’s in their playoff matchup. Caris LeVert was injured a majority of the season and if he never had that horrific fall, they could have had an even better record.

D’Angelo Russell was an unappreciated player that the Lakers just threw away to the Nets and as we look back at this trade, the Nets won it. Brook Lopez left in free-agency and Kyle Kuzma was taken with the 27th overall pick. He was worth the pick and he has been one of the brightest young assets for the Lakers. Imagine if they had kept D-Lo, maybe they could have swung a different deal for the pick back in 2017. The Lakers killed this season by trading away D-Lo. Lonzo Ball and D’Angelo would have been able to play together and it could have been a much better offense because of it. This in turn could have taken some pressure off of Lonzo, but instead, he is in a situation simliar to what D-Lo went through in his time in LA.

At the end of the day, D’Angelo Russell was able to make the playoffs before LeBron James and the Lakers could.

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