The Los Angeles Lakers have a bright future. This is the most cliche thing ever.
You hear it on talk shows, blogs, or simply watching basketball games. With players such as Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Ivica Zubac, it’s hard to argue that point. All those players can be terrific, and have shown signs of some good things to come.
With a potential top-three pick (or not) in the upcoming draft lottery, things can get better. Los Angeles must finish with a top-three selection if not the pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The one player I haven’t mentioned is D’Angelo Russell, who has as much potential as any young guard in today’s game. Here’s why.
He is a good shooter with strong court-vision. The 21-year-old is averaging 15.5 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds this season. While the numbers look only decent on paper, he is averaging 28 minutes, which is certainly less time than nearly every starting lead guard.
D’Angelo Russell’s per/36 numbers this year (his age 20 season): 19.9 pts, 4.6 rebs, 6.1 assists, 1.8 steals.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) March 23, 2017
The Lakers have not used the talented guard the right way. It’s that simple. An example of this was when Luke Walton decided to experiment, bringing Russell off the bench. One may ask, how can a team bring their most talented player off the bench when he was averaging 20.6 points and 5.3 assists over his previous nine games?
Russell struggled in his first two games off the bench combining for 15 points on 6-of-24 shooting. In his final game off the bench against Milwaukee, he went for 14 points (5/9 fg) in only 21 minutes before getting ejected.
Since then, things have changed, as Russell has started as the shooting guard for the first time in his two-year career. An illness that forced Nick Young to miss last Sunday’s game against Cleveland opened the door for Russell to start off the ball. In that game against the Cavaliers, Russell went off for 40 points on 14-of-22 shooting (7/12 from 3-point range).
What made the performance impressive is that he had six assists and only one turnover as well. This game opened the eyes of many fans, as it had them thinking what if Russell played off the ball? After all, he played that role in his only year at Ohio State where he dominated, and he has the size (6’5) and skillset to do so.
Look for things to get interesting come draft time if the Lakers keep their pick. If they do, they might find a way to land upcoming lottery pick Lonzo Ball, and play him alongside Russell.