As we’ve reached the near midpoint of the season, the 2016-17 Los Angeles Lakers have once again found themselves in a very formidable hole. For the fourth-straight season, that is.
We can blame this one on injuries (which almost every NBA team will go through at some point), we can blame it on lack of talent (which no NBA team can have enough of), but there’s no excuse for Los Angeles to be in the position they’re in right now.
Not this bad, at least.
Now does this necessarily mean that it’s “the end of the world” for L.A? Absolutely not. But to begin with the idea of starting the season 7-7, then falling to fourteenth in the Western Conference, as well as going 9-27 afterwards, it’s been nothing short of disappointing for the Lakers this year. And whether you think it’s satisfactory or not, second-year Point Guard D’Angelo Russell has tragically failed to meet expectations. Some of it has been out of his control, while most of it however, falls right into his palms.
For someone who came into the league with “superstar-potential,” Russell was picked number-two overall by the L.A. Lakers in the 2015 NBA Draft. His rookie season wasn’t horrible either, subtracting any off-court issues he had to deal with amongst other teammates, which sometimes even led onto the court itself.
But in 80 appearances (46 starts) through the 2015-16 season, Russell still had reasonable numbers of 13.2 Points, 3.3 Assists, 3.4 Total Rebounds, and 1.2 Steals — on 41% shooting from the field, 73% on free-throws, and just over 35% from three. This season, however, he’s seen his efficiency take some hits in most of his categories. Through 34 games of the 2016-17 season, his shooting numbers have slipped to 39% from the field, and 34% from three.
But for what it’s worth — he’s still managed to raise his free-throw percentage to right around 76%.
And yes, Russell has dealt with lingering knee-issues throughout the early portions of the season. His first injury occurred back in November, where he was forced to miss eleven-games due to soreness. Although even before the injury, Russell wasn’t as consistent shooting the ball. Through those first twelve-games of the season, he averaged 16.8 PPG on just 42%. I’d also like to add that a +/- of -2.0 came along with this.
I dug-up some interesting metrics for D’Angelo, and his impact overall with the team.
- After obtaining a 1.6 Net Rating in November, Russell has had that number fall to -3.5 in December, then -7.3 in January.
- In 18 games played at home, Russell’s Offensive Rating is on an adequate level of 112.4. On the road, it comes up to 99.4 per game.
- To bring up a pair of notable classmates from the 2015 Draft, Emmanuel Mudiay and TJ McConnell both have a higher Assist Ratio, as well as career Assists Per Game than Russell.
- After shooting an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 53% in November, it’s dropped dramatically to 44% in the past two-months.
To take into consideration, is it really “too little, too late” for Russell to join the NBA’s upcoming group of top-tier Point Guards?
I’ll woefully disagree. Here’s why.
We won’t forget that this was a nineteen year-old kid entering the league. Russell was — and still is — one of the most coveted, as well as top-recruited players since High School. That illusive potential of translating his success from Ohio State to the professional level, is still bright-and-clear. Russell averaged 19.3 PPG in his lone season at OSU, as well as 5.0 APG, 5.7 RPG, a near 45% FG, and 41% from three.
Sure, those weren’t the best across-the-board numbers in the nation, but what’s made Russell a sure-fire lottery pick was his unselfish play, as well as timely baskets to pull-out meaningful victories. Unlike any past situation, the ball hasn’t been shared in Russell’s hands as much, due to playing with the likes of Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, Nick Young — and even Kobe Bryant, of course.
But when he does have it in his hands as well as being comfortable, D’Angelo looks as scary as any combo-guard the league has to offer. And too add that he’s only played in 27.7 Minutes Per Game in his first-two seasons, Russell just might find himself having this kind of impact in the near-future.
PER 36 MINUTES 2016-17: 19.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.7 SPG.
PER 100 POSSESSIONS 2016-17: 26.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 8.2 APG, 2.3 SPG.
There’s so much about the game that D’Angelo Russell needs to learn — in order to even become a trustworthy Point Guard for Coach Luke Walton. However, once the Lakers understand their personnel, and make the appropriate changes to their roster, we could see more glimpses of their solid start, earlier in the season.
But you’ll also hear me preach in glimpses: It must all start with D’Angelo’s development.