It’s been a wild ride to start the season for the Nets. They got out to a solid start, they were linked to Jimmy Butler, they now own all of their draft picks, and then recently Caris LeVert dislocated his ankle in an injury that looked far more gruesome than it turned out to be. In lieu of his absence, guys are going to have to step up. This group plays with a chip on their shoulder as the franchise is regularly reminded of their infamous deal with the Celtics. They would love nothing more than to prove everybody wrong and that this group of so-called misfits can hoop. In terms of who I believe needs to step up and lead this team, I’m looking at D’Angelo Russell. The former 2nd overall pick in 2015 whom was picked before Porzingis, Booker, Rozier, etc. hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype yet. He was ran out of town in LA and then landed with the upstart Nets at before last season. After an injury riddled season where he played merely 48 games he’s constantly the butt of “bust” jokes and I honestly don’t understand where this is all coming from.
Are we really giving up on 22-year-old point guards? Imagine if a business gave up on a promising young employee because they weren’t the star of the firm as a 22-year-old? I get it, this isn’t JP Morgan, this is the NBA and it’s not like any other job. You’re expected to perform immediately no matter how outlandish the thought of that is. It’s not the player’s fault, it’s just how the league is. Players are coming into the league so young these days and are expected to contribute right off the bat. The NBA is a mans game, kids don’t win, and it takes a while for most young players to get to their full potential. That being said, I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t be giving up on the former Ohio State star.
First of all, as I referred to before, he’s still ridiculously young. So many times, we have seen teams give up on players before the end of their first contract. Most of these are mid/late round picks who teams took a flier on but there are top 5 picks who have been given up on as well. One success story is that of Victor Oladipo. Given up on by the Magic and then promptly flipped for Paul George by the Thunder, it seemed as if he’d be a solid swingman, but nothing more. Then last season, he put all of these thoughts to bed as he molded into one of the best shooting guards in the game today. He led the Pacers to a playoff appearance, made it to his first All-Star Game, received All-NBA 3rd Team honors, All-Defensive 1st Team honors, won the Most Improved Player award, and even almost took LeBron out in the first round. While I’m not saying that Russell will necessarily make that kind of jump, I believe he could be in for a similar situation down the road.
Take a look at his numbers below and tell me why we should be giving up on Russell.
He’s improved his points per game almost every year of his career and also has improved his assist numbers. Sure, his shooting splits aren’t the greatest at this point in his career but this early, who’s are that great? Unless you’re a can’t-miss stud it usually takes a few years to get fully acclimated to the league. For comparison, here are Oladipo’s averages his first 4 seasons in the NBA up against Russell’s.
It is eerie how similar they are and how comparable these two really are. I look at their two respective situations to be similar as Oladipo was shipped out before the end of his first contract in the same fashion as Russell was. In Oladipo’s case, the Magic felt as if they needed to get something for him since they did not plan on extending him after his last season in his deal. For Russell, The Lakers had their eyes on Lonzo Ball so it was either, trade Russell, or pick somebody else. They went with the former and sent Russell off for a late first (Kyle Kuzma) and Brook Lopez. Now is the time for Russell to show that he should’ve been the one who they believed in. In 4 games since LeVert got injured Russell is averaging the following:
I believe he will keep this up as the Nets are now rallying behind their fallen brethren. I’m excited to catch some Nets games this season as I think on the shoulders of Russell and Dinwiddie they’re going to make some noise. Maybe not playoff run noise, but some far better noise than what’s been coming out of Brooklyn since mortgaging their future to the Celtics. They’re fun, talented,have room to grow, and the franchise’s future is bright. That sentence hasn’t been said about the Nets in quite some time and I expect Russell to be at the forefront of this movement and to start proving his doubters wrong one bucket at a time.
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