D'Angelo Russell is supposed to be the brightest shining light out of all the young core the L.A. Lakers have amassed over the past three years, and he looked to have made improvements from his debut campaign in the Summer League last month.
The second overall pick in the 2015 draft showed glimpses of his obvious talent during his rookie campaign, but also felt the cold shoulder of former coach Byron Scott on more than one occasion.
This season is a new chance for Russell, though, and a new beginning under new head coach Luke Walton. The point guard has been working hard in the offseason, and he believes paying attention to his post game will pay high dividends.
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“In this league everybody's different," Russell told Mike Bresnahan of Time Warner Cable Sportsbet. "You've got small guards that dominate the game, you've got athletic guards that dominate the game, you've got shooting guards that dominate the game, and the post is slowling disappearing with guards.
"There's a few guards that still post up, like Westbrook, or Chris Paul a little bit. I just want to be one of those guys, Shaun Livingston, one of those guys that can dominate the game at any time in the post.”
Russell only received 95 post-up touches last year, but he made the most of them, scoring on 26 of his 41 shot attempts (63.4 percent).
His playmaking wasn't quite as good, though. He only assisted out of post-ups 2.1 percent of the time, and turned the ball over on 6.3 percent of the time. His comparison, Livingston, assisted 8.6 percent of the time.
In fairness, Russell isn't a playmaking first kind of point guard. He only averaged 3.3 assists in his rookie campaign, but dropped 12.2 points a night. Paul - a world-class dime dropper by all accounts - managed 7.8 assists a night in his first season in the NBA many moons ago.
“At the next level you've got to take what they give you,” said Russell. “If the right play is facilitating the whole game and you've got eight or nine assists, that's fine, but just letting them know that you can do it.”
Will Russell make major strides for the Lakers this season? It will be interesting to see how the 20-year-old fares in a new, uptempo system that Walton is likely to employ.