The Los Angeles Lakers were the team to watch during the 2015 NBA Draft, as they held the second overall pick and there appeared to be several candidates worthy of selection. Ultimately, they passed on Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and international big man Kristaps Porzingis, instead taking Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell.
Russell would go on to have an up-and-down rookie year. He began the season as then-coach Byron Scott‘s starting point guard but lost the job for a period midway through the season before eventually winning it back again. The relationship between Russell and Scott often appeared strained, which made the transition to the pros that much more challenging.
In an interview with Bob Perez of Fox Sports, Russell admitted that he didn’t have a great rookie campaign:
” …if it was bad … or whatever it was … 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.”
On the positive side, while Russell’s struggles were clearly evident and his adaptation to the point guard role was far from seamless, he did show flashes of brilliance. He has excellent court vision and is not afraid of the big moment whatsoever, hitting big shots in multiple games and drilling a game-winning three at the buzzer during this year’s Las Vegas Summer League against Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Russell’s excitement for the new season partially stems from his relationship with new coach Luke Walton, who has already drawn rave reviews from his young guard:
“When I first met Luke, the vibe was like: “I know this guy.” There were no awkward silences. No stares into space. We cooked so well. When we started practicing and getting out on the court, he played with us, and I’m like: “I’m not used to this” because last year was my rookie year and that’s all I knew.”
While the Lakers aren’t expected to return to contender status anytime soon, it appears as though the young team is ready to step forward into a new era, and Russell is going to have to step up and take the reins.