I think it’s more than fair to say D’Angelo Russell has had an up and down preseason. Against the Blazers on Tuesday, Russell only mad 6 of his 21 shot attempts, missing all 9 of his three pointers in the process. In the Lakers’ exhibition opener against the Kings, he only scored 4 points while connecting on only 2 of his 8 field goals.
Those bad nights, however, have been balanced against some very good ones. In two games against the Nuggets he combined for 54 points on 60.6% shooting from the field while hitting 8-15 three pointers. If you want to nitpick, he only had 8 total assists over those two games while also racking up 6 turnovers. This led to some discussion about balancing Russell’s scoring and playmaking for others, with some arguing they would appreciate more of the latter even though they greatly appreciate his skill with the former.
On Thursday against the Kings, though, there was no longing for more of anything. Russell was fantastic as a scorer and as a passer, tallying 31 points (on only 14 shots) and dishing out 11 assists to go against only 2 turnovers. In the 3rd quarter alone he had 13 points and 4 assists while not turning the ball over once. He was dominant and helped turn an 18 point deficit into only 2 points heading into the 4th quarter.
The numbers, though, just don’t do his play justice. You actually need to see the highlights to get a sense of how good he was:
— NBA (@NBA) October 14, 2016
Russell has a way of making things look easy. The effortless way he shoots his jumper, the wonderful pace he creates when working off the dribble, the way he delivers pocket passes by leading players into open space. Nothing ever really comes off as too rushed or forced — even if at times it might be. That, in itself, speaks to his ability to control tempo and the overall skill level he possesses.
Yes, he can be more consistent. Two relatively poor games out of five does stand out, somewhat. However, I’d argue that his up moments have been pretty spectacular even if they don’t always lead to wins (like Thursday against the Kings) and outweigh the down moments.
The clips above only reinforce what he’s capable of. And, to think, he’s still only 20 years old. Imagine what he can be in even two years, much less five when he’s entering his prime. He has the chance to be scary and I can’t wait for it.