You will not find a more divisive member of the Lakers today than D’Angelo Russell. Opinions of him run the spectrum of hot takes, with full throated endorsements and dissents colliding each day wherever you are. There’s not a single player who inspires as much debate, no, belief that they’ve pegged him not just for what he is, but what he will be as a player.
A quick example: This past Saturday I was checking into a hotel in the Bay Area and one of the employees who handles valet parking saw me rocking my Mitchell and Ness Lakers hat. He asked me if I was a “real” fan or not. I chuckled and said I was legit and then he peppered me with qualifiers — “Real like you’re nervous about the lottery on Tuesday?” Yes, I said. “Real like you didn’t want the Lakers to draft D’Angelo Russell?” — whoa there, buddy. “He’s got a terrible first step, doesn’t pass well…” I stopped him there.
This is how it is with Russell. Like an apparition, you either see it or you don’t. And no matter if you’re on the pro or con side, the person who doesn’t see it has instantly lost some credibility with you.
Fast forward to today and there are rumblings about Russell’s status with the Lakers. After the team retained their pick and the prospects of Lonzo Ball (or, in what would be a minor miracle, Markelle Fultz) becoming a Laker is now perfectly plausible, Russell’s name is starting to be muttered in the same sentence with words like expendable. The reasoning goes something like “who needs Russell now that you’re going to get Ball? Ball is the PG of the future, not Russell, trade him for someone better!”*
This is a mistake.