Tough night and even tougher morning for D’Angelo Russell. Last night, after he brought the Nets back with his three-point shooting in the second half, the 22-year-old made a couple of mental mistakes that hurt the Nets in one of their more difficult losses.
Then, this morning, both Zach Lowe of ESPN and Michael Scotto of The Athletic offer analysis of DLo and his series of mental mistakes over the last two games. Lowe was a bit more detailed ... and more gentle.
It has been a strange and vaguely disappointing season for D’Angelo Russell. He has been injured for about half of it, and spent the other half shooting and missing a lot. Russell perked up Tuesday in Cleveland, but he has hit just 38 percent -- and 27 percent from deep -- since returning from knee surgery.
Russell has used 32.4 percent of Brooklyn’s possessions with a shot, turnover or drawn foul, fourth-highest among all rotation players, behind only James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid. That is a little much. His turnover rate is icky.
Almost half of Russell’s shots have come from midrange, a high number for a perimeter player, per Cleaning The Glass. Russell has a habit of gaining inside position with a shifty move, and then giving the advantage right back by slowing down, picking up his dribble and bricking a fading midranger:
When he came out of the NCAA racket, scouts feared Russell lacked the athleticism to get to the rim and finish. That was mostly true in his first two seasons. He has solved the finishing part so far in Brooklyn -- Russell has hit 69 percent in the restricted area, an elite number -- but he’s not getting there nearly enough. Brooklyn scores at a league-worst level when Russell runs the show solo, without Spencer Dinwiddie at his side, per NBA.com. Let’s not mention his defense.
Russell is still so young, and point guards develop in fits and starts. That same instinct to slow down with the ball serves Russell well when he uses it to pin defenders on his hip, keep his dribble alive, and probe. He has good vision, and projected before this season as someone who could hit pull-up 3s.
That has been the story of Russell’s career: some parts of his game rise, and others fall. Maybe someday soon, they will all rise together. He just turned 22. But so far, this season has been unsatisfying.
Scotto focused on Russell’s play the last two games, calling his learning curve, “trial and error.
Russell showed glimpses of the All-Star potential that made him a former No. 2 overall pick with a season-high 11 assists and several 3-pointers with the clock winding down.
The 8-0 run that gave Brooklyn the lead! pic.twitter.com/0f0RRz8NOd— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 2, 2018
For Russell to become the franchise player the organization needs, he must continue to learn by trial and error as a young closer at the end of games.
Russell missed an opportunity for a two-for-one possession towards the end of the game. Russell will learn to manage the clock better over time with more experience. On the game-tying attempt, Russell made a good pump fake to create space and get his shot off, which ultimately clanged off the rim.
After getting trapped in the corner with 20 seconds left in the game against Cleveland after trying to bail out Jarrett Allen, who picked up his dribble, Russell was forced to heave a desperation shot while trying to draw a foul. He nearly sent the Sacramento game to a second overtime Thursday but also came up short. These experiences will prove invaluable long-term for Russell as Brooklyn hopes to see more late-game heroics instead of shaking his head.
Bottom line, DLo is a talent, but he also just turned 22, just returned from injury and is moving between the 1 and the 2, learning as he —and Dinwiddie— go. Those are all ingredients for mental mistakes. Gotta deal with it.
One big thing in his favor: He isn’t shying away from questions on these issues or dealing with the consquences. He knows the expectations. He knows it will take time ... and it will.