The Los Angeles Lakers took a huge gamble drafting D’Angelo Russell, but didn’t stick around to see the payoff. For the first time since taking James Worthy, the Lakers were staring the past and future right in the eye going into the 2015 NBA Draft. It had been since that time that the Lakers had a top-two lottery pick. Ultimately, it was choice between a throwback big in Jahlil Okafor and a dynamic guard in Russell. Signs were good that the Lakers were forward thinking in keeping up with the modern times of scoring from the wing. Four years later, the Brooklyn Nets all-star is continuing his NBA journey on the east coast.
Bright Lakers Lights
The pressure of playing in Kobe’s shadow and being “mentored” by Nick Young were not ideal circumstances for the young point guard. To top it all off, he spent a year with Byron Scott, who’s had his share of run-ins with point guards. There were so many things that Russell had going against him outside of the typical point guard struggles that we usually see. Magic Johnson followed up with the tough love and publicly sided against Russell. It was clear that the clock was ticking on his tenure as a Laker.
A Price To Pay For Dominance
Russell was a part of the “Lakers tax” that had to be paid while the team pursued their own big vision. They shredded away Timofey Mozgov’s gargantuan deal for a chance to create multiple max salary spaces. They only signed LeBron James leaving the second part of their plan in the dumps. Even James himself knows the potential that lies in Russell.
Organizations have to be brutally honest with themselves when they’ve failed. While the ambition is understandable, the Lakers disregard of Russell proved to be heartbreaking. He’s earned an all-star bid at 23 years old. Russell has also turned the Nets into a playoff team while the ragtag bunch that ate up the Lakers’ other max space are wallowing in mediocrity. In his last visit of the year to his former team, he burned them with 21 points and 13 assists. The icing on the cake is Russell eliminating the Lakers from the playoff race. Lakers brass have one summer to stifle the last laughs filling up Barclays Center. For Russell, the hearty chuckle is well deserved.
We all knew he had drive and extraordinary talent. That was never the issue. The issue is that he is lacking in character and to win championships you need talent and character. Lonzo has both and will lead the Lakes to multiple titles. Great character, great passer, great defender, mediocre shooter. Well you can’t acquire the first three if you don’t have them by the time you are twenty. Shooting can, and often does, improve. He may never be a great 3 point shooter, but the rest of his shooting stats will rise for the next five years.