As a Laker fan, though extremely objective, I did hope the Lakers would take either Russel or Muiday, a future PG with size that complements young Jordan Clarkson, last years 2nd round pick of the Lakers who made All Rookie First Team and finished the year with a bang. Russel, like Clarkson, is a 6'5'' tall and long point-guard who can also play the 2 spot as well. Other than their similar sizes and ability for the Lakers to start the 2 guys together with a 3 guard lineup (because of their length, size, skillset and athleticism), the two players are rather different. Clarkson showed us last season that his potential to be a pesky defender, athletic combo guard who can cause a ton of problems when he drives to the hoop.... while his passing skills are decent which I believe makes him the SG of the two.
Russel struggled a bit in summer league with his shot, but as we all know taking a small sample size like that under all the conditions is rather arbitrary to quite some degree, though it's telling he does need to work and mature on his body, decision making and consistency. As a 19 year old, he might have the most potential in the entire draft though. Just watching the way he controls the flow and pace of the game was a beautiful thing to watch, something the Lakers have lacked since Fisher left the team (he wasn't a superstar, but was a solid role player who got the team to run it's offense and style, leading to titles). On the other hand, D'Angelo will average better stats as a rookie than Fisher ever put up in his entire career (10+points, 4+assists, 3+rebounds, 1+steal).
His shooting was suspect in Vegas Summer League, but he has a beautiful shot (especially when he catches and shoots). As he builds his body and speed I'm sure his pull-up will become a very effective tool, not that he doesn't already have one. It's just not NBA speed ready yet. On the other hand, he plays at his own pace of the game, using his ability to change speeds and use angles to get himself room to take a shot, make a pass or simply start the offense. His comfort level as a leader of the team should grow this season next to Kobe and others, and I see this crafty lefty learning a bit quicker than most people have pegged (and not just because I'm a Laker fan).
His basketball IQ is really high, and when you combine that with the type of work ethic he already has (along with what he is witnessing from Kobe right now), and you have yourself a young guard that will be improving each game next season, possibly in the Rookie of the Year nomination category if all things go well. While he does need to get stronger and quicker, I'll trust the 10+ college games I saw him play and how his shooting was always solid, even out to the NBA 3-point range. I project:
14.3 points, 6.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 3.3 TO's, 43%FG, 36%3FG, 81%FT
That's my official prediction, weighing all negative and positive.It could be lower, could be higher if he finds a rhythm and groove this season, and if he was a 17+ppg, 7+apg stud I wouldn't be surprised, though I think he will breakout in his second season after a full year under his belt of NBA play, practice, and time to adjust his body. The potential this kid has is scary, and I will say its a better than 50/50 coin flip he makes the All Rookie 1st Team as well, 2nd Team at the worse, in a draft class that includes certain guys who we know are NBA ready or quite close and going to be starting and getting plenty of minutes (Towns, Okafor, Muiday, Caulley-Stein, Porzingis, Myles Turner, Jerian Grant, etc).
NEEDS TO IMPROVE:
- He is lefty dominant like a Manu Ginobili, always goes left; must get that right to full strength
- Consistent NBA 3pt shooting range, including shot selection
- On-Ball and Pick-N-Roll defense; NBA team defense concepts
- Body strength and athleticism (something most 19 year olds face as rookies)
- Decision making (averaged 5 TO's a game in Vegas, though was low TO in college)
The Lakers have a great young core for the future, with Kobe and Hibbert coming off the books next year the future looks great for the purple and gold. D'Angelo Russel is the future star of the Lakers, the next hybrid guard to dominate the league by storm. After all, the league has become a PG stud first before the 7 foot bigs these days, and small-ball is relishing everywhere. The Warriors with Draymond Green playing PF and even C in the finals showed a lot of teams what the future beholds. Russel should have many ups and downs this year, but I will say for a fact there will be more ups, and the amount of highlight passes we see from a Laker Point-Guard will be the most since we had Magic Johnson on the roster.
D'Angelo, assuming no major injuries or setbacks occur, should be a top 10 Point-Guard within 3 seasons, and an All-Star by his 22nd birthday. He's the main piece of the Lakers future, while he also has Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson to complete the young future core. His IQ and work ethic provide comfort to all, as we needed a confident, educated, smart, talented, yet humble type of personality to move this team forward.