In the 2017 NBA offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to include former No. 2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell in the trade package dumping Timofey Mozgov’s contract to the Brooklyn Nets. The Lakers made the move to create enough salary cap space for the summer of 2018, when they proceeded to acquire LeBron James in free agency. The deal turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Russell, who earned his first NBA All-Star selection in just his second year of playing for the Nets.
Currently, D’Angelo Russell is playing the best season of his NBA career, averaging 20.4 points, 6.8 assists, and 1.2 steals on 43.0 percent shooting from the field and 36.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc. While the Lakers are set to miss the Western Conference Playoffs for the sixth straight year, Russell and the Nets are currently in a strong position to end their playoff drought this season. In an interview with The New York Post, Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers talked about the Lakers’ decision to trade Russell in the summer of 2017.
Coach Doc Rivers knew D’Angelo Russell even before Russell entered the NBA. Russell was frequently playing summer ball with Doc’s son, Austin Rivers, during their Florida school days. Rivers believes that the Lakers became impatient, and gave up too quickly on Russell.
“He played a lot in the summer with Austin [Rivers], so I’ve been able to see him for a long, long time,” Rivers said. “I was disappointed early on, because I just thought that he was really good. Sometimes, you’ve just got to wait on a kid. The same thing with teams. Especially in this young group. You look at each draft and there’s guys that come out at 19 and they don’t take off right away. They get moved around, and the next thing you know, they’re players. It happens more than we know, and it happened to D’Angelo.”
Doc Rivers think Lakers made a mistake when it came to D'Angelo Russell https://t.co/jyobDI2Fj2— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) March 18, 2019
Based on his current performance, the Lakers may be starting to regret trading D’Angelo Russell to the Nets in the 2017 NBA offseason. If they had kept Russell on their roster, the Lakers might have decided to pick Jayson Tatum over Lonzo Ball in the 2017 NBA Draft. Ball is definitely not a bad acquisition for the Lakers, but as of now, no one can deny the fact that Tatum is a much better player — and appears to have higher superstar potential.
Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson shared the same sentiment as Coach Doc Rivers, saying that players have a different developmental window. However, Atkinson thinks that being in the “right place” is also a huge factor in a player’s development. If D’Angelo Russell hadn’t been traded to the Nets, it remains a big question mark whether or not he’d have the same success that he’s currently experiencing right now.