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D’Angelo Russell has been the Brooklyn Nets’ franchise cornerstone since being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017.
The Nets gave up their franchise player, Brook Lopez, in the trade for Russell, indicating how much ownership believed in the former #2 overall pick.
Hampered by injuries and appearing in only 48 games last season, the time for Russell to make the leap to an outstanding franchise player is right now. If Russell wishes to keep his status as the Nets’ top player and the opportunity for a big payday open, he has to deliver in a contract year.
Immaturity and locker room chemistry were issues in LA, but since stepping into more of a leadership role in Brooklyn, durability has been the main problem for DLo.
When healthy, Russell has showed his skillset, dynamically scoring the ball and dishing it around the floor. Turnovers and efficiency still prove to be weaknesses for the former Buckeye, but things of that nature tend to be overlooked for a “young player with potential”.
But for the former Ohio State Buckeye, he has to shed that label and be a star. The flashes of brilliance are nice, but they won’t take the Nets out of obscurity.
One of those flashes came this past week in a preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Putting up 25 points, including a clutch three-pointer at the end of the fourth quarter, it’s clear that Russell has the chops to be a very good player.
The question is if he can be the best player on a good team.
The players surrounding the point guard seem to be prepared to take leaps this season, with Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen being the biggest youngsters that Nets fans should be excited about.
Russell not only has to stay on the court this season, but he has to elevate his game enough to prove his worth. Coming for his starting job is Spencer Dinwiddie, who will surely look to build on momentum from last season and get paid this summer as well.
Russell’s talent, build and skillset, should be enough to average 20 points a game as well as a decent number of assists (his highest averages being 15.6 points in 2017 and 5.2 assists last season). Sean Marks and company have done enough to surround Russell with a respectable team, and now he has to lead it.
Even in the wide-open Eastern Conference, it’s hard to expect the Nets to make the post-season this year. If a playoff run isn’t in the cards for Brooklyn, their biggest positive should be Russell becoming the player he’s expected to be.