When the Los Angeles Lakers first began their rebuilding effort, one of their first top draft picks was D’Angelo Russell. The young point guard was viewed as more of a long-term option than an immediate difference maker, but he continually showed flashes of his greatness through two seasons.
However, when the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the front office decided to trade away Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. The move allowed the Lakers to clear cap space by getting out of Timofey Mozgov’s contract and president of basketball operations Magic Jonson also noted that he felt the Lakers needed a ‘leader.’
Since being dealt, Russell has grown immensely and will soon be making his All-Star Game debut leading many to question whether the Lakers made the right move two years ago. Russell, on the other hand, called the trade the best thing to ever happen in his career, via Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report:
“I can’t imagine what they’re trying to block out,” Russell says. Later, he adds: “If [the Lakers] didn’t let me go then, they were gonna let me go now, and I’d be going through what they’re going through. Best thing that happened in my career.”
Russell brings up a good point in that had he remained with the Lakers, he would be involved in trade rumors just like the rest of the current Lakers young core. The deal also likely opened Russell’s eyes to the business side of the league as many young players don’t experience it that early in their careers.
Immaturity, work ethic, and leadership were all things called into question during Russell’s tenure with the Lakers. Of course, players grow and mature as they become older and Russell serves as proof that it can take years for someone to become the player his talent shows he’s capable of.
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