D’Angelo Russell’s initial arrival sparked Byron Scott to compare him to Magic Johnson. Russell’s potential as the Lakers’ No. 2 draft pick led many to paint him as the candidate Kobe Bryant would pass the torch to in his final NBA season.
Russell soon learned plenty of time awaits before that might happen for reasons involving both circumstances both within and beyond his control. The NBA named Russell as part of its All-Rookie second team along with Miami’s Justise Winslow, Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, Indiana’s Myles Turner and Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein as determined by select NBA writers and broadcasters.
Russell still ranked fourth among rookies in assists (3.3) and steals (1.16), while also finishing fifth in points (13.2) and three-point field goal percentage (35.1%). Russell also garnered 25 first-team votes, including from this reporter. But that does not match the initial expectations Russell received. He finished with a lower honor than teammate Jordan Clarkson, who was named last year to the NBA’s All-Rookie First team after
Russell experienced unique challenges that made it difficult to truly evaluate his growth. He shared ball-handling duties with Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. Russell appeared uncomfortable at times under Scott’s Princeton-oriented offense. He also lost his starting spot 20 games into the season and did not play in the final moments both in late-game situations and lopsided defeats. That role did not change until shortly after the NBA All-Star break in mid February.
Yet, Scott’s handling of Russell partly reflected team-wide concerns on his attitude, maturity level, work habits and overall consistency. Some of those issues became more pronounced when Russell recorded a video that accidentally became public of teammate Nick Young admitting to infidelities.
Nonetheless, the 20-year-old Russell showed promising signs that could become more pronounced in the 2016-17 season.
He became the youngest player in NBA history to make at least 120 3-pointers in a single season. He posted at least 20 points in 13 games, including two of them that including a 30-point plus performance. The Lakers have also become intrigued with his court vision and passing. All of those skills could improve under newly hired Lakers coach in Luke Walton, a presumably larger role and a year of NBA experience.