D’Angelo Russell has had a productive, though short stint in his first year with the Brooklyn Nets. Yet, of all the things he’s accomplished, three-point accuracy is not one.
The Nets have seen that, in more areas than one. He’s their leading scorer, and locker room leader all the same.
In the first 12 games, Russell lead the team to a 5-8 start. An impressive start for a team that finished 20-62 in the 2016-2017 season.
Out of the gate, he was playing well, slightly improved from his recent days as a Laker. He was growing better by the game until the Nets pulled him out for arthroscopic knee surgery in November.
Months later Russell’s returned, and he’s resumed play at the same level. Instead of his knee, however, it’s his three-point shooting that’s on the mend.
Here’s a look into Russell’s shooting slump from deep, and the irony behind its existence.
In two years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Russell was never a great three-point shot. As fate would have it, two of Russell’s best games from deep have come against Brooklyn.
His rookie season, the Lakers beat the Nets 107-101, behind his then career-high 39 points. Russell hit eight shots from deep, a current career-high.
The following year, Los Angeles yet again beat Brooklyn at home, 125-118. He hit seven shots from behind-the-arc, scoring 32 points on the night.
He’s only hit seven or more threes one other time in nearly three seasons; his current career-high 40-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.
What is it that’s hindering his three-point shot? The easy answer is his inability to settle before and after injury.
The hard answer? Well …
Russell’s played two very short stints with his new team. 12 games prior to arthroscopic knee surgery, and only 18 since. The Lakers’ offense (if you could call it that) could also be the culprit. Los Angeles was a bottom tier NBA team in both his years and more importantly; they played like it.
Meaning the offense was more of a free for all, featuring Russell as the main facilitator. In Brooklyn, the team’s record reflects one of a less than mediocre club, but they’re coaching is years ahead of the 2015-2017 Lakers.*
**(I’m pretty impressed with what Luke Walton’s done this year, a big jump from where they were.)**
From the jump, the Nets sought out to play two ball handlers in the same starting five. Similar to the scheme being run in Houston, featuring Chris Paul and James Harden.
First, it was Jeremy Lin, but he was ruled out for the season with a ruptured patella tendon. So, Spencer Dinwiddie has recently emerged in the second half of that equation. It’s something new for Russell, and it’s certainly taking time for him to adapt. Though it helps that his partner in the backcourt is playing so well.
In general, the young guard has a pretty quick release, so you can’t blame any offensive or even newer defensive schemes. Russell needs just a second to get the ball up, no matter where he’s at on the floor.
On the year, Brooklyn’s newest franchise star has shot 29 percent from deep, a six percent drop from his 35 percent average over two seasons in Los Angeles.
So, where does the irony lie? I promised to elaborate.
Despite shooting so poorly, Russell remains as committed and confident as ever in putting shots up from deep. It’s almost as if he’s married to the idea that he’s a threat from deep.
Just last week, he put up 12 attempts from three in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. Only five fell through the hoop. In February, a month where Russell shot 27 percent from deep, he had a game with 13 attempts from behind-the-arc.
The idea is that everyone can shoot out of a slump, and that hasn’t slipped past this Brooklyn guard.
Since his return on Jan. 19, he’s recorded nine games with five or more attempts from deep. On the year, Russell has had 15 such games in total. Another reason to look at his numbers and scratch your head: the Nets are one of the better three-point shooting teams.
In attempts (35.3) and made threes (12.3), they rank second in the league. (26th in percentage.) With Russell leading the way, it comes as no surprise.
On the other hand, maybe he just didn’t get the memo?
The bottom line is this. Russell is going to put up points no matter the circumstance. A slightly more consistent/efficient three-point shot wouldn’t hurt though.
D’Angelo Russell has done it all for the Brooklyn Nets in just 30 appearances. He scores, and he passes the ball plenty, but just doesn’t shoot well from deep.
Maybe he learned something from Kobe Bryant after all.