Statistically, D'Angelo Russell had a quality rookie season: 13.2 points per game, 3.3 assists per game, shot 35.1 percent from three, had a PER of 13.2. He was NBA All-Rookie second team, and he improved over the course of the season — his PER for the month of February was 18.8. Point guard is the hardest position to learn at the NBA level and Russell’s rookie numbers, especially during the last couple months, compare well with top point guards in the game now such as Damian Lillard, John Wall, even Kyrie Irving when they were rookies.
But then there were the downsides to Russell’s rookie season: Clashes with his coach, an ego big enough to trouble Lakers staff, and the video incident with Nick Young.
How would Russell describe his rookie season? He was honest with 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.”
Russell looked like he had learned a lot while playing in Summer League for the Lakers where he averaged 21.8 points and 4 assists per game. He started to find some chemistry with just-drafted Brandon Ingram. He can lead a young Laker core that includes Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.
As he has before, Russell praised new Laker coach Luke Walton, who told the young guard not to be afraid to shoot.
“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.”
If Russell has taken these lessons to heart and listens to his new coach, Lakers fans should be optimistic about the future.