2018-2019 Off the Glass Breakout Players Series: D'Angelo Russell
New York Post
Not one player will determine the fate of the Brooklyn Nets more than D’Angelo Russell this season. At best the Nets are a 7th or 8th seed. For that to occur they’ll need Russell to have his healthiest season to date. He’ll need to produce like he did in his first twelve games before getting injured last season. D’Lo has all the tools to make a splash this season, he’ll just need to have health on his side to allow him to put it all together. Here are some areas which will determine how far he and Brooklyn go in 2018-19.
Passing and Decision Making
Russell has elite vision and can make the impossible pass look as simple as a basic chest pass.
His dexterity with the bounce pass is something to behold. A key for him will be making more of those plays and cutting down the turnovers. The man himself is looking for the same as well.
“Trust me, there’s no way you’re mad more than I am about the turnover. But like I said, I think I’ve taken that step.”
The 22-year old has made some minor strides already this preseason. Outside of the Raptors performance, where he gave the ball up 7 times, he only had 3 turnovers in the other three games. His 8 assist night, in Brooklyn’s last preseason hitout with the Knicks, was exactly what the doctor ordered.
As host of the Brooklyn Buzz, Nick Fay and I said in our season preview of D’Lo, 18 point and 8 assist nights are the type of numbers that the team and fans will be wanting from him. There’ll be nights where the young guard has a few more turnovers than is wanted. In 2017-18 he had 4 turnovers or more in 14 of his 48 games. That number is ok if next season Russell can be play 70 games or more. If he can keep those hefty nights to a minimum it’ll give him and the Nets every chance at having success this season.
Via Basketball Reference, over his 191-game career D’Angelo has had 20-point+ performances on 47 occasions. There isn’t a question over his scoring ability. He has a nice floater game and his pull-up jumper from mid-range is smooth as hell.
For the point guard to continue his ascension, efficiency, shot selection and consistency will be key. He’s still yet to break the 50% effective field goal mark across his 3 seasons in the league. That number is a reflection of his lack of consistency and a need to improve his perimeter shot. As he told NBA.com, it’ll be about a balance of knowing when to attack and when to facilitate.
"I think if you can score the ball at this level and you can pass the ball at this level, that’s the hardest thing, figuring out when you want to pass and when you want to score.”
The work he’s put into his physique in the offseason is already starting to show.
The strength Russell showed in that play was something you’d rarely see from his last season. He’d be more likely to settle for a jumper which again, shows a maturity in his shot selection and ability to make the right play. If he can continue to drive the ball at a decent rate it’ll open up the floor completely for him. His floater game will also allow him to make more of those kinds of plays on a regular basis.
For D’Lo to push himself into the elite guard conversation he’s going to need to convert his pull-up game to the perimeter as well. All of the game’s best point guards (outside of Westbrook) have a quality 3-point shot. That’s not to say he can’t do it and the fact he’s a lefty gives him an added element of versatility.
Last season he made 4 or more 3-pointers 9 times, headed by a performance where he nailed 7 of them against the Toronto Raptors.
Russell doesn’t need to turn himself into Stephen Curry by any means. He just needs to show that he’s a threat from the area. With such an emphasis on perimeter shooting in the Nets offense, it won’t only open up the game for D’Lo but the team overall.
Early signs show that the budding guard is showing decent signs. He’s shot 10/27 (37%) from the perimeter across 4 games. Last season injury prevented him from getting into any rhythm from the arc. He shot under 33%, a number that will need to grow for him to take his game to the next level. With the increased talent around him and natural progression there’s no reason why he can’t bring it to a more respectable 36-37% like he’s shown in the preseason.