D'Angelo Russell Deserves To Be Named an All-Star Tomorrow

Update (1/31/19, 8:35 PM): The reserves were announced and DLo wasn't one of them, but Victor Oladipo was and since he's out for the season, hopefully DLo can fill in as an injury replacement.

Tomorrow night, the All-Star reserves (picked by coaches) will be announced on TNT. Players like Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Blake Griffin, Ben Simmons, and Bradley Beal (to name a few) are just about guaranteed locks to be selected, but as always, there are a few floaters heading into the announcement.

One player in particular has seen an increase of calls for him to be named an All-Star: Brooklyn Nets guard D'Angelo Russell. In a season that's been crucial to him not being labeled a "bust", Russell has put the league on notice. The Nets currently sit at 28-24 (6th in the East), already having matched their win total from last year (28), and Russell is leading the team in scoring (19.5 PPG), assists (6.4 APG), and steals (1.2 SPG). His scoring ability has never really been questioned as he's shown what he's capable of, but Russell has faced doubt over his maturity and leadership ability after he secretly recorded Nick Young admitting to cheating on then-fiancee Iggy Azalea (Iggy, I won't cheat on you) when he was on the Lakers; the video somehow leaked, and Russell was shunned by his teammates for the remainder of the season. Looking back on that whole fiasco, yeah it was wrong that D'Angelo filmed Swaggy but it doesn't seem like it was intentionally leaked by him, but rather someone else. Whatever, it's over, he was literally my age when he did it. He could be an All-Star this year, it worked out.

Russell was a decent young player for the Lakers over his two seasons in LA. After being taken with the 2nd overall pick in 2015, Russell was expected to be a major contributor on offense, and he did a solid job. In 28 minutes a night, he put up 14.4 points per game over two seasons, but the Lakers decided to take another gamble at guard and ultimately traded him to the Nets before the 2017 Draft in order to take Lonzo Ball. Once he arrived in Brooklyn, Russell was labeled as the go-to scorer for a lowly, rebuilding Nets team in desperate need of a star. I can't find the stat, but I remember D'Angelo was putting up like 20 a game through the first month-and-a-half of last season and then he got hurt. Upon returning from injury, he finished the season averaging 15.5 points on 41.4/32.4/74.0 shooting splits; not the worst, but Russell certainly wasn't playing up to his potential.

That all changed this year, especially over the last month. In January, Russell averaged 23.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.3 steals on 49% shooting; safe to say Russell has emerged as the budding star on a young team fighting for a playoff spot. The Nets have gone 11-3 over this stretch and Russell has been the clear-cut leader. On top of his leadership, he's been beyond fun to watch; there aren't many jumpers as satisfying as Russell's (he's also a lefty, and I automatically support all lefties). As he's figuring out how to become a lethal scorer while leading his team to success there are going to be errors, but he's only going to grow from them. With a supporting cast of Jarrett Allen, Caris LaVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Joe Harris, and Spencer Dinwiddie, Russell is in excellent company; he also has Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll, honestly a really intriguing, pretty deep roster. It seems like everyone on the Nets has an established role that they execute every night, and clearly it's working. Head coach Kenny Atkinson and GM Sean Marks have done an incredible job the last two seasons completely revitalizing the roster and organization despite a severe lack of draft picks and free agent interest/signings, and there should be more praise thrown their ways. They also have room for two max signings this summer; they're going to be a major player in free agency.

A big theme in All-Star reserves is picking players who deserve to be there. Maybe they aren't a "star" by definition, but their team is exceeding expectations and should be represented in the Game; that's exactly D'Angelo Russell and the Nets. I don't think there were too many people who expected the Nets to be in this position heading into the All-Star break, or rather at all. There's zero doubt in my mind that D'Angelo would show out against superstars given the opportunity, and who knows, maybe he'll show us that he has ice in his veins.