D’Angelo Russell is looking to take a big step as he prepares for the upcoming season. Amongst a group of young guys, at the point guard position many will look to him as a leader of this team. Looking back at last season, he gave himself harsh critique of his rookie year (via Rob Perez of Fox Sports).
“It was bad. It wasn’t the best rookie year. But, I had some big learning experience from it and coming into this year – I’m beyond excited.”
I respect Russell for critiquing himself so roughly but his play last season wasn’t bad. Statistically his numbers weren’t eye-popping but he still had a solid season for a rookie point guard. He averaged 13.2 points per game and 3.3 assists per game shooting .410 from the field. However, his numbers don’t tell the full story.
From month to month, his numbers increased as his confidence increased. But watching Russell, you could see he wasn’t playing his full game. He faced early battles with Coach Byron Scott about his starting position and he was also playing alongside Kobe Bryant, who we knew was going to take shots. The aggressiveness that we saw in Ohio State was not there and new Lakers coach Luke Walton saw the same thing as he expressed his desire for Russell to shoot more:
“He wants me to shoot the ball when I’m open. When a coach tells you to shoot the ball, it’s like a green light for you. You can’t want that more than anything. But the catch is you got to be good enough to know that when you’re not open, you gotta pass. That’s the responsibility he’s thrown at me and everybody.”
We saw a little bit of that aggression during the summer league where Russell averaged 21.8 points per game. That production is what the Lakers will need next season because the bulk of the scoring will come from Russell and Jordan Clarkson. With the ball in their hands, they will need to score and create and lead this offense to success. D’Angelo Russell’s rookie season was a solid season but I’m looking forward to watching him take it up a notch this upcoming season.