D'Angelo Russell is more important than you think


The former All-Star guard is more important than people realize

D'Angelo Russell has just completed his most efficient season of his career, by a landslide in fact. Averaging about 17.8 points and 6.2 assists per game while shooting a career high 46.9% from the field and 39.8% from 3. Though a rough start to the season with the Timberwolves prevented his numbers from reaching around 50/40/90. He was traded to the Lakers for a second stint with him approaching unrestricted free agency, would likely not have re-signed in Minnesota. Russell's second stint with the Lakers was up and down - mostly up. Shooting about 48.5% from the field with the Lakers and 40% from 3. His poised style gave the Lakers a new flavor at the point guard position and gave them the best possible pick and roll partner for Anthony Davis not named LeBron James. (AD and DLo had the 2nd best PnR completion percentage only being Jokic and Murray).

You would have thought these numbers were a sign that the Lakers will bring him back right? In the general sense, you would be right. But things get weird when you look at the playoffs. Russell had a ton of good moments in the first two rounds vs the Grizzlies and Warriors. Numerous times he saved the Lakers with his consistent three point shooting or scoring outburst and clutch shots. But when facing the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals is where the damage to his image takes place. Only averaging 6 points against the Nuggets and 32% from the field (18% from 3), many just brush away all the good he has done for the Lakers and immediately are looking for any possible way to be rid of him. But what if I told you those numbers against the Nuggets were an anomaly?

For closure, I am not giving Russell a pass for his performance. But this is to say he hit an extremely rough stretch at a very bad time. Give the Nuggets their flowers for game-planning on taking Russell out the series as they knew he was the deciding factor for the Lakers. As Bruce Brown and Michael Malone said, he was their target on both sides and they executed the plan perfectly. It also doesn't help that Russell was being taken off the ball a ton and not running much pick and roll action with Anthony Davis anymore. Russell could have done more to get himself going as well. When he is less involved in the game plan, he tends to have these mood swings and not fully try on both sides.

Regardless of all that, it is very casual and maybe even stupid to say Russell is going to keep having these 6-8 point games consistently, he's far too talented as a 27 year old to be having those games all the time. He has developed a very good chemistry in such a short amount of time with Anthony Davis and his backcourt running mate Austin Reaves. Rob Pelinka has expressed continuity and the perfect way to keep that is to bring back the team that got you to the WCF.