Can D’Angelo Russell Flourish Behind the Arc for Los Angeles Lakers?

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers had several sensible reasons to select D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in last June’s draft. One being that the road to success no longer travels through the post, and the most successful NBA franchises are now stocked with playmakers who comfortably create offense for themselves and others.

Spacing is more important than ever too. Half-court offenses must navigate through dense forests that are packed with the longest (and fastest) trees the sport has ever seen. It's a bit easier said than done, but the best way to unclog a crowd is with three-point shooting so potent that help defenders wouldn’t dare leave it alone.

Forget about his brilliant vision and latitudinal control; Russell’s outside shot—he nailed 41.1 percent of his threes in college, on 6.6 attempts per game—is enough to seduce any talent evaluator trying to build a successful team. 

The mechanics are an aesthetic delight, capped by a release that’s quicker than water from a faucet. Envisioning him as a nightly threat from deep was so easy; Russell could space the floor when he didn’t have the ball, and strike directly off the dribble. 

But early on, things didn’t materialize as many thought they would. Stuck below an exceptionally harsh magnifying glass that’s only reserved for lottery picks hand-selected by one of the sport’s most recognizable brand names, Russell struggled. In the early going, his aggression was reserved for mid-range pull-ups out of the pick-and-roll (the very shot most opponents allow by design), and his allergic reaction to the paint was worrisome. Both troubled Lakers fans, but neither was worth more concern than his faulty outside shot. 

One of Russell’s greatest strengths was reduced to a weakness; the court’s outer edge was, suddenly and surpris...

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