Lakers are trading Tim Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell to Nets for Brook Lopez and 27th pick Thursday, sources say.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 20, 2017
This move is typical of Sean Marks’ plan for the Nets, as he acquired D’Angelo Russell just two years after he went #2 overall in return for taking on some future salary. The Lakers managed to grab another first-round pick in a deep draft, in addition to clearing out space for future free agents (particularly Paul George).
While Nets fans will miss Brook Lopez, they at least get to watch Brook return to his hometown. More importantly, Brooklyn acquired a young asset in D’Angelo Russell at the nadir of his value. Although losing their all-time leading scorer is an unfortunate cost of doing business, the Nets have built a back court with Russell alongside of Jeremy Lin that will be good right away and even better in the near future.
So Long, Brook Lopez
One piece of the Brook-Lin tandem moved on with his NBA career on Tuesday night. Brook Lopez has been the literal and figurative centerpiece of the Nets roster for many years. Lopez endured the misery of the 12-70 season. He made an All-Star appearance in 2012-13 while starring alongside Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. He sat out most of the 2013-14 season as foot injuries prevented him from playing with the Brooklyn super team.
The 2016-17 season was another fun iteration of Lopez’s career in Brooklyn. Brook added a three-point shot to his repertoire out of basically nowhere, and shot a solid percentage from deep on a healthy number of attempts before a shooting slump late in the season.
There were clearly question marks surrounding Brook’s game. His complete inability to rebound was always an issue up front. Additionally, he struggled to guard the pick and roll in a league trending more and more towards spread pick and roll offenses.
However, Lopez was an efficient post-up scorer who never complained and always seemed to be in good spirits. He was a huge part of Brooklyn’s success during the good times, kept the team somewhat afloat during the bad times, and ended his Nets career as the all-time leading scorer in franchise history. Sean Marks got incredible value from Lopez, but the gentle giant will be missed next season.
A New Hope
While losing Brook Lopez was a sad cost of doing business (as was the 27th overall pick), Nets fans should be ecstatic about acquiring D’Angelo Russell. Although he entered the league during the 2015 draft as the #2 pick, Russell is still only 21 years old. Furthermore, his smooth scoring game and solid size will help him fit into a back court with Jeremy Lin that will be one of the league’s most dynamic scoring guard pairings from Day One.
D’Angelo Russell can be forgiven for going mostly under-the-radar on the basketball court. No matter how successful his first two season were, Russell would look bad as the pick that followed a generational talent in Karl-Anthony Towns.
That being said, Russell quietly played quite well during his first year in the NBA. He averaged 13.2 points per game despite poor shooting numbers. However, he struggled to translate the incredible passing vision he showed in college to the NBA as he averaged just 3.3 assists per game and often missed simple reads that he easily made in college.
Russell did not get much of a chance to show off his skills for a miserable Lakers team that went 17-65 in Kobe Bryant’s final season. Russell got far more attention for his SnapChat of Nick Young than for anything he did on the court.
Hiding in Plain Sight
If Russell went under-the-radar during his first NBA season, he must have hid in a stealth bomber during his second year in the league. Russell somehow got less media coverage during his sophomore season in the league despite steady improvements across the board.
While part of Russell’s silent second season can be attributed to the time he missed with injury, he was better in nearly every facet of the game in Year Two. He averaged 15.6 points per game and increased his three-point percentage despite attempting 1.5 more three’s per game. Russell also improved his steals rate to 1.4 per game. Most importantly, he dished out 4.8 assists per game as a sophomore.
Given all of the Los Angeles media coverage, it seems nearly impossible that someone like D’Angelo Russell could go unnoticed. However, he was a secondary storyline to Lou Williams after Williams’ early season success. As the season wound down, Russell again became a secondary story as Brandon Ingram played far better to close out the year. Russell even lost some shine to local college star Lonzo Ball, a presumptive future Laker. Russell will certainly not be as quiet during his first year in Brooklyn.
Completing the Core Four
The Nets managed to acquire a stopgap center in Timofey Mozgov as part of this trade. Mozgov will slot nicely into Brooklyn’s open cap space. While he is not worth a $16 million contract, he is a decent enough center who will not put much of a damper on the Nets’ long-term future.
D’Angelo Russell is the clear centerpiece for this trade, and he is a nearly perfect fit alongside the rest of Brooklyn’s starting lineup. He is almost overqualified as a secondary ball-handler besides Jeremy Lin. Additionally, his three-point percentage will definitely improve when he is not tasked with creating those looks himself, as he often was in Los Angeles. Russell shot a remarkable 45.1 percent on corner 3-pointers–the most frequently assisted three-point looks on the floor. He will slot in well alongside the young forward tandem of Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Russell can help create openings for LeVert and RHJ with his drives to the rim, or spot up around them when they or Lin is on ball-handling duties.
Nets fans will quickly fall in love with D’Angelo Russell. They will soon love the “Ice In My Veins” celebration almost as much as they used to hate it:
D’Angelo Russell has room to grow, but even his game as of last season would be a great fit with the Brooklyn Nets. The fanbase will miss Brook Lopez, but D’Angelo Russell will more than alleviate the pain of his departure.