The Los Angeles Lakers have invested a lot of capital into the NBA Draft over the past few years. Since 2014, the team has drafted four high-profile players in the lottery and countless more prospects deeper in the draft.
Thus far, none of those players have turned into outright stars but almost all of them have shown the potential to become real positive contributors. The player closest to stardom, however, is no longer on the Lakers.
LA traded D’Angelo Russell prior to his third season in the league in what amounted to a salary dump of Timofey Mozgov’s monster deal. While the decision has been debated ad nauseam, Russell has improved in every season culminating in becoming a first-time All-Star this year as Victor Oladipo’s injury replacement.
Much of Russell’s newfound success has come through his ability to become more consistent, something that he told Bleacher Report’s Leo Sepkowitz was a product of advice received from Lakers’ star LeBron James:
For help in this area, Russell called on the league’s most steady player. “I actually reached out to LeBron this summer,” he says. Russell asked: “‘What’s the best thing for becoming consistent?’ He’s like, ‘You have to be prepared mentally to go out and dominate every game, and then your teammates will follow that.’” In past years, Russell lacked routine. “After shootaround,” he says, “I might play video games, might talk shit with my boys, might take a nap, might eat a pregame meal, might get treatment—might. Now it’s so strict with what I’m doing every time. Game day, off day, it’s so strict, and that’s played a lot into my success.”
Russell always flashed his potential, dating back to his two years with the Lakers, but putting together long stretches of success is something that is new to him.
In an alternate universe, D’Angelo Russell and LeBron James could have been teammates on the Lakers this season. Who knows how that would have panned out given the lack of patience for the young core on the current roster. Russell is further along than the current Lakers – due in large part to him being the most veteran of the group – but would he have flourished in Los Angeles the same way he has in Brooklyn?
These are all interesting questions that we’ll never have the answer for. For now, we can all be happy for a former Laker who is seemingly figuring things out and mesmerizing the league while he’s at it.