When news broke that Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell was going to make the 2019 All-Star team as a reserve, teammates, as well as other players around the league, were excited for the 23-year-old Louisville native.
D-Lo was having a career year in just his second season with the Nets averaging over 20 points per contest. While NBA players were ecstatic for Russell, NBA pundits began to wonder why the Lakers traded D-Lo in the summer of 2017 after just two seasons.
The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Russell in 2015 where he experienced highs, lows, and non-stop drama. D-Lo would have his shining moments where it looked like the Lakers found their new superstar point guard. He would follow up those games with never-ending mistakes.
While the Lakers are no stranger to Hollywood drama, Russell undoubtedly brought more to the locker room following a March 2016 incident. He recorded then teammate Nick Young admitting to cheating on his fiancée and pop star Iggy Azalea. This incident not only showed Russell’s immaturity but also led to distrust from other teammates.
Despite a tumultuous couple of years in La La Land, Russell proved himself to be an improving player for the Lakers. averaging over 14 points per game to along with 4 assists per contest. The Lakers, however, decided it was time to move on from D-Lo. In June 2017, they shipped D-Lo off to Brooklyn for center Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma.
This trade came as a shocker to the rest of the league. It looked like Russell was continuing to improve. He bumped up his points from 13.2 in his rookie year to 15.6 in his sophomore campaign.
Not to mention, the Lakers drafted Russell with the 2nd overall pick in 2015, passing on players like Devin Booker and Kristaps Porzingis. When a high draft pick is traded, it’s normally because they are not producing, which clearly wasn’t the case for Russell. It seemed the trade was made more so because of the drama that Russell kept finding himself in.
Regardless of intent of the trade, the Lakers would find themselves a diamond in the rough in Kyle Kuzma.
In his rookie season, Kuzma would go on to show 21 other teams that they missed out on of the top players in the 2017 draft. He would put up over 16 points per game while shooting at 45% from the field and over 36% from beyond the arc.
In fact, Kuzma was the second leading scorer of all rookies in 2017. He also showed he’s no one-hit wonder as he has increased all of his stats, except for three-point percentage. Halfway through his 2nd season, Kuzma is averaging 19.2 points, 2.5 assists, and shooting 47.2% from the field.
With Kuzma playing well, why would NBA pundits feel the Lakers jumped the gun on trading away D-Lo?
Russell is having a career year in 2019, proven by his All-Star team selection. D-Lo is currently scoring over 20 points per game while averaging 6.7 assists. He is also shooting career-highs with 43.6% from the field and 37% from the three-point line. He has the Nets in the heart of the East’s playoff race. This comes as a shocker considering the Nets haven’t sniffed the postseason in three consecutive years.
D’Angelo Russell with back-to-back three’s from DEEP. 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/w6gCJM4lq8— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) February 26, 2019
It’s difficult to say whether the Nets or Lakers won the deal. D-Lo and Kuz are proving to be integral parts of their respective teams. Kuzma and Russell are having career seasons, albeit this is only Kuzma’s second season in the association. We may not find out who won the trade.
In fact, we may not find out this answer for another few years. One thing is for sure, the Nets and the Lakers have found their franchise players for years to come.