So far, D’Angelo Russell has met the expectations many had when the Brooklyn Nets acquired him. But there are some reasons for concern.
The Brooklyn Nets are in rebuild mode and have made D’Angelo Russell the player they’re going to build around. The Nets started the season hot and were .500 heading into their fifth game. But that surprising start came to a quick end. The Nets are 5-9 and sit in fifth place in the Atlantic Division.
Russell has been having a career year so far, averaging 20.9 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. More importantly, he’s been playing with confidence and is developing into a true leader, proving to Lakers legend Magic Johnson that he made a huge mistake trading D’Angelo away.
When Russell is on the court, his team’s offense flows to the best of its ability. That said, he face of the Nets may be off to an amazing start but has had some consistent imperfections this season.
While Russell does a great job of dishing the ball to his teammates, he’s a huge contributor to the opposition’s offense as well, averaging 4.0 turnovers per game. That has to improve. The Nets have lost a bunch of games by a close margin. Turnovers played a huge role in those losses.
Russell effort on the defensive end is lacking. The Nets defense is already weak due to their constant frontcourt injuries and their lack of a legitimate rim protector. He needs to start playing consistent defense, especially behind the arc and in the mid-range. Just getting in someone’s face, rather than giving them an open look from these spots, could have a huge impact on the team’s fortunes.
More than his play, the Nets should be concerned about Russell’s health. The starting point guard suffered a left knee contusion late in Saturday’s loss to Utah. This will be his second injury of the young season and is more serious than his first one. Russell previously only missed a game for Brooklyn with an ankle injury. The Nets upset Cleveland in that game with outstanding three-point shooting and offensive rebounding performances.
His current injury is expected to take a huge toll on the Nets. The starting point guard will miss several games with the knee contusion. Should Brooklyn take their time and give him plenty of time to recover or let him play when he says he’s ready?
D’Angelo clearly wants to play for Brooklyn and lead the Nets to the playoffs. But the team must be very cautious. The last thing the Nets need is to let Russell back on the floor before he is 100 percent, which could lead to even more serious injuries.
If the Nets rest Russell and take him off the court for a couple weeks, their season goal of reaching the playoffs will not change. With the outstanding play of Spencer Dinwiddie, Russell’s absence will not be as painful a blow to Brooklyn. Dinwiddie won’t average the same numbers as Russell, but his competitiveness, confidence and all-around game make him a very solid replacement.
The playoffs are a realistic team goal but the long-term rebuilding process is more important. D’Angelo Russell’s health and recovery must come first.