The Los Angeles Lakers’ sophomore point guard D’Angelo Russell is on his way to having a breakout year in the NBA. The 2015 no. 2 overall pick is having by far the best preseason of any Laker. Russell leads the team in scoring at 20.2 ppg in five preseason contests while hitting 50% of his shots and 40.6% from three. Veteran Shooting guard Nick Young is shooting 51.7% from the field, however, Young is only averaging 10.8 ppg, well below Russell’s output.
It’s not just Russell’s ability to find the bottom of the basket that shows he’s ready to take his game to the next level. He is also distributing the ball well with 4.6 assists per game and is stepping up on defense. Russell accounts for 1.8 steals and 2.4 rebounds a game, decent numbers for a second-year point guard before the start of the regular season.
In Summer league, Russell was vocal about wanting to be a better player and wanting to be the MVP. Although he fell short of his MVP goal, he was the best and most consistent Laker to suit up this Summer and established himself as a threat from beyond the arc.
This preseason Russell has been the leading scorer for the Lakers in three out of five games including a 33-point game in a win against the Denver Nuggets and a 31-point game in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. More importantly for the Lakers, Russell has become an undeniable leader on the court. Head coach Luke Walton has had high praise for Russell and trusts his game enough to allow him free reign to shoot when open. Walton even went as far as to compare Russell to back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry.
With Russell demonstrating a real feel for the game, knowing when to get his teammates involved or when he needs to take over, expect him to have a breakout season for the Lakers. His ball handling and three-point shooting will make him hard to contain and his effort on defense will make him tougher to score on. The overall improvements to his game, especially on offense, coupled with his growing confidence means the Lakers have a rising star in the league. Russell has a long way to go and a lot to prove in order to be a true NBA all-star, but the young man is already showing flashes all-star potential. Sooner than later teams will be game planning for him and rightfully so, after all, he is the only player with ice in his veins.