Buy or Sell: D’Angelo Russell, Pittsburgh Pirates and Utah Jazz

While Joel Deering, Mickayeen Farner and I were discussing, Joel brought up D’Angelo Russell’s move to the Golden State Warriors, and labeled Russell as the next Steph Curry. Mickayeen immediately disagreed. So the two decided to debate it out here in this week’s Buy or Sell. Along with Russell vs. Curry, we’ll also bring up the Pittsburgh Pirates after they crushed the Chicago Cubs 5-18 and the Utaz Jazz and their Western Conference chances. 

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D’Angelo Russell by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Aman: D’Angelo Russell is capable of being the next Steph Curry?

Mickayeen: I’ll start with the classic Player A/Player B scenario. These are the first four seasons of Steph vs the first four seasons of D’Lo:

Player A (per game): 16.5 points/ 3.7 rebounds/ 5.1 assists
Player B (per game): 19.2 points/ 4.0 rebounds/ 6.1 assists
Seems pretty close on the surface, but when we dig deeper and look at more advanced numbers, we see where the separation really is:

Player A: 35.3 3P%, 49.2 eFG%, 76.2 FT%, 51.9 TS%, 28.2 USG%, 6.6 WS, 4.6 VORP
Player B: 44.6 3P%, 54.8eFG%, 90.1 FT%, 58.6 TS%, 24.2 USG%, 24.7 WS, 11.2 VORP
Explanation of those stats: 3P% is simply three-point percentage; eFG is adjusted for the three-point FG is worth one more point than the two; FT% is free-throw percentage; TS% is a true measure of efficiency, taking into account, two-pointers, three-pointers, and free-throws; USG% is usage percentage, or the estimate of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor; WS is the estimate of number of wins added by the player, similar to WAR in baseball; and VORP is an estimate of points added per 100 possessions.

Player A is D’Angelo Russell and player B is Stephen Curry through their first four years in the league. I mean, it’s not even really that close when you look at it. Steph shot 10% better from three-point land, was more efficient in every single category, and scored more points per game despite having a lower usage rate than D’Lo. The counting stats wills look closer when looking at the per 36 minutes or per 100 possessions because of that higher usage rate, but make no mistake about it, even though D’Lo is a really good player, he is no Steph, and the efficiency numbers and advanced metrics reveal that truth.

Joel: Looking at Mickayeen’s breakdown of D’Angelo Russell against Steph Curry, I can see how one might think to say Russell is the next Curry is ridiculous. However, there are several other stats we can look at that will say otherwise.

In their first four seasons in the league, Russell made 589 three-pointers, while Curry made 644. Curry made 55 more three-point shots than Russell. However, Curry also started more games and played more minutes per game. During their first four seasons, Curry started 28 more games and averaged 5.6 more minutes per game than Russell.

When you do the math, you’ll find that Curry averaged 2.55 three-point shots made per start. Looking at Russell, he averaged 2.63 three-point shots made per start. At that pace, had Russell started as many games as Curry during their first four seasons, he would currently be at 662 three-point shots, 18 more than Curry.

Moving on to their points per game, Steph Curry beat out Russell in points averaged per game during their first four seasons. We could go back to the starts argument here, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll compare how long it took each player to get over 20 points per game. It took both Russell and Curry until their fourth NBA season to average over 20 points per game, Russell averaging 21.1 and Curry 22.9.

Next, we’ll look at their assists. How long did it take each player to average over six assists? It took both of them until their fourth NBA season, with Russell averaging 7.0 and Curry 6.9.

Next, let’s look at the playoffs. Steph Curry didn’t take his team to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. D’Angelo Russell didn’t take his team to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. What seed were their teams in their first playoff appearance? They were both six seeds.

Finally, I’ll just add that D’Angelo Russell is the youngest player in NBA history to reach 500 three-point shots made. Russell may not have the same shooting percentages as Curry, but there are plenty of other similarities between the two guards.

Mickayeen: The Utah Jazz are favorites to win the Western Conference?

Joel: As it currently stands, I don’t think the Jazz are considered the favorites to win the Western Conference. They’ve made some really nice moves this offseason, which I think definitely makes them contenders to win the Western Conference, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say the favorites.

Looking at the teams in the Western Conference, you’ve got the Nuggets (Should be even better than last season), Warriors (Will still be contenders despite losing Durant and Klay being out), Blazers (Consistently tough), Rockets (Despite drama, should still be there), Lakers (Should be in the playoffs this season), Clippers and several other teams. Among all those teams, I don’t think I’d take the Utah Jazz as favorites. Do they have the pieces to win the Western Conference? I think they do. Are they the favorites? I think at least a few other teams would be favored at this point.

Aman: I was about to buy this, but then the Los Angeles Clippers did two things. First, they signed NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard from Toronto Raptors. Due to that, Paul George signed from Oklahoma City. To be honest, even Leonard alone would’ve pitted the Clippers as favorites for me. And adding onto Joel’s points, the Houston Rockets can be NBA title contenders, forget the Conference. The Trailblazers, Warriors and the Lakers will likely be in the hunt, not to forget the kind of damage the Denver Nuggets can do. Therefore, I sell this.

Joel: The Pittsburgh Pirates will finish with a better record than the Philadelphia Phillies by the end of the season despite the Phillies having Bryce Harper?

Mickayeen: I wish I could buy the Pirates being better than the Phillies by the end of the season, but I just can’t. Even as it stands right now (July 3rd), the Phillies are 3.5 games better, have a +6 run differential while the Pirates have a -39. The Phillies are the more talented team overall and will probably finish 5-10 games better than the pirates. You can never say never in sports, especially baseball, but this doesn’t seem like it’ll finish close.

Aman: In terms of wins and losses, both teams seem similarly consistent this season. The Pirates have just won two fewer games, but the reason I buy the Pirates doing better than the Phillies this season is the away ratio. The Pirates have a batter away record winning 22 games compared to the Phillies’ 20.

 

Now that you have our takes on these intriguing debates, let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

  • Is D’Angelo Russell set to be the next Steph Curry?
  • Are Utah Jazz favorites to win the Western Conference?
  • Will the Pirates beat out the Phillies?

NBA Free Agency: Winners and losers from day two

After an exciting day one of NBA free agency, day two didn’t offer nearly as much excitement. However, there were still a few significant signings throughout the league that will impact how things play out the rest of the way.

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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Yesterday we looked at the winners and losers of free agency’s first few hours, as that’s when most of the action happened. However, several significant moves happened later on on day one, meaning there were winners and losers we missed from the first day. With that in mind, the winners and losers from day two will include some of the moves made technically on day one of free agency. Let’s take a look at the free agency winners and losers from day two!

 

Winner: Golden State Warriors

Just when you think the dynasty is over, it comes right back. After losing Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors were able to pull off a sign-and-trade to get D’Angelo Russell on a long term deal. Somehow, someway, the Warriors lost two All-Stars in Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, yet they still have four All-Stars on their team.

This move by the Warriors is a great move for them, both for now and later. It’s a good move now, because Klay Thompson will be out for most of, if not the entire 2019-20 season. With him out, Steph Curry still has another splash bro who can drain three point shots pretty much at will.

It’s a great move for later, because we know the Warriors’ stars won’t last forever. Curry and Thompson still have great years ahead, but when they do start to decline, they’ll have D’Angelo Russell there to keep them competitive. Russell’s four year deal will give the Warriors time to develop a relationship with Russell to make sure he doesn’t leave when his opportunity arises. They can take care of that before it even gets that far.

The down side to the trade is that the Warriors had to get rid of Andre Iguodala in order to make space for Russell. Iguodala was a huge factor in the Warriors’ run over the last several years. We can’t tell just yet how that will impact this team, but it’s likely they’ll decline defensively. Despite that move, the Warriors are winners because they’ve kept themselves legit title contenders after losing one of the NBA’s best players.

 

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

While NBA teams have been going nuts and making headlines, the Lakers have been sitting back and doing nothing. We all know they’re waiting on Kawhi Leonard, but in the mean time, a lot of solid players have been swallowed up by their competitors. This team is banking on getting Kawhi Leonard, and it may not even happen. I don’t blame them for banking on him. If they land him, they’re legit title contenders. However, if they don’t, they pretty much wasted free agency.

Since free agency started, the Lakers have done just about nothing. They did make one move during day two of free agency, but it wasn’t anything exciting. The Lakers signed guard Troy Daniels, who’s spent six years in the league with multiple teams. Who? Yeah, most people don’t even know who Daniels is.

The reason they signed Daniels is because of his three-point shooting ability. He’s shot 40% from deep over his six year career. He’ll provide some nice shooting for the Lakers, but he doesn’t bring much else outside of that.

L.A. could easily go from losers to winners if they land Kawhi, but for now, their boring free agency period and lack of ability to surround LeBron and AD with help has landed them here.

 

Winner: Boston Celtics

I’ve been going back and forth on if I think the Celtics are winners, losers or just somewhere in the middle. They lost Kyrie Irving, but were able to land Kemba Walker. They also lost Al Horford, but replaced him with Enes Kanter. Replacing Irving with Walker offsets, but what about replacing Horford with Kanter?

Overall, I think Horford is the better player. However, the Celtics were able to get Kanter on a two-year, $10 million deal. That’s a great value for what Kanter brings to the table. Many don’t like Kanter, but I personally love the way he plays. He’s a great rebounder, who excels at getting his team second chance opportunities. He’s not an elite scorer, but the Celtics don’t need him to be. The Celtics won with this signing because they got a player who’ll do all the dirty work on such a great deal.

 

Loser: DeMarcus Cousins

After day two of free agency, DeMarcus Cousins is still sitting there, waiting for someone to scoop him up. For most bigger name free agents, we’d typically hear something about them meeting with teams and getting close to a deal. We haven’t really heard anything about DeMarcus Cousins during free agency to this point. What does that tell us about how teams view Cousins?

I think a lot of teams may be shying away from Cousins because of his recent injury history. He’s been hurt a lot over the last couple of years, and hasn’t been available for his team as often as teams would like.

Then there’s the fact that Cousins has never been able to help his team win. The only time Cousins has been on a relevant team have been when he played with Anthony Davis, and when he played for the Warriors with Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant. Other than that, Cousins’ teams have been nothing.

Someone will pick Cousins up eventually, but the fact that he hasn’t received much interest to this point has to be bad for him going forward. This has shown he’s got a lot to prove this coming season wherever he ends up signing.

 

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland won day two of free agency because they were able to land Hassan Whiteside from Miami. The acquisition of Whiteside gives the Blazers a legit big man to help fill the void of Jusuf Nurkic as he continues to make his way back from injury. Enes Kanter did a nice job last season, but he’s no longer with the team. Had Portland not traded for Whiteside, they would have had a huge gap to fill at the position.

There are two more things I love about this trade. One, the Blazers didn’t give up much to get Whiteside. They only had to give up Meyers Leonard and Mo Harkless in order to land his services. Second, Whiteside is entering the final year of his contract. That means the Blazers didn’t commit to anything long term with Whiteside. If they like him, they can sign him to a long term deal later. If he ends up not working out, it’s not like the Blazers are stuck with him.

Landing Hassan Whiteside was a good insurance policy for the Blazers, which should help them stay competitive in the Western Conference this coming season.

 

Loser: Houston Rockets

We all know the Rockets were trying to add Jimmy Butler to their roster. Well, that didn’t work out, as Butler is now a member of the Miami Heat. Instead, the Rockets settled for re-signing Austin Rivers. That’s no knock on Rivers, but it’s not great when comparing it to trying to land Butler.

There’s also another downside here. There had been a lot of talk about the Rockets moving on from Clint Capela to possibly make room for Butler and his contract, but now it looks like he may be sticking around. How will that impact Capela and his relationship with the team?

There already seemed to be some sort of drama going on within the organization. Will this make it even worse? Things have been tough for the Rockets lately, and this certainly didn’t help.

NBA Free Agency: Top 10 point guards

As we wrap up the 2018-19 NBA season and look ahead to the next, we focus on the next step for each team. We’ll be looking at which stars are available and where they’ll be going this offseason. Over the next few days, I’ll give you the top 10 players from each position and tell you where I believe they’ll end up next season.

Kemba Walker
“Kemba Walker” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The first of the five positions is the most important, because they’re the floor generals. These guys are more than capable of leading their team to playoffs. They’re all looking to take the next step and win an NBA title.

Top Point Guards:

1. Kyrie Irving

Current Team: Boston Celtics

New Team: Brooklyn Nets

With the recent change of agents and decline of the player option, it’s clear Kyrie Irving will be leaving Boston. He never belonged there in the first place. As the newest member of Roc Nation, Irving will be looking for a new team. I don’t believe it will be in Los Angeles with LeBron James, but instead will be with the Brooklyn Nets. This will be the first of few moves the Nets make in free agency.

2. Kemba Walker

Current Team: Charlotte Hornets

New Team: Charlotte Hornets

As much hype as there’s been over Kemba Walker being a free agent, I don’t think he’ll leave Charlotte. I would love to see him join the Lakers, but I think Michael Jordan will do whatever he needs to to keep Walker.

3. D’Angelo Russell

Current Team: Brooklyn Nets

New Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

With Irving going to Brooklyn, I don’t see Russell wanting to stay there. I know there were reports of this being a possible duo, but I think Russell is out. The best place to go is with his best friend, Karl Anthony-Towns, in Minnesota. I know they already have Jeff Teague, but with other teams still trying to find that veteran point guard to help lead their team, I expect Teague to be traded before the season starts.

4. Terry Rozier

Current Team: Boston Celtics

New Team: Orlando Magic

One of those teams who could look for a Teague trade is the Celtics, especially after both Irving and Terry Rozier leave in free agency. Rozier wants to be a starter in the league, and he knows he won’t get that with the Celtics. He could try to get it as a member of the Orlando Magic, but he’ll have to prove he can outplay Markelle Fultz and whoever else the Magic sign.

5. Malcom Brogdon

Current Team: Milwaukee Bucks

New Team: Philadelphia 76ers

I want to see the Bucks bring Brogdon back, but with all the questions they have with their roster, he might be one of the players they’ll let go. Although he is a nice two way player, the Sixers could use him as both a starting point guard or a complimentary guard to Ben Simmons. There are still several questions that need to be answered for the Sixers at the guard position, but Brodgon could answer one of them.

6. Patrick Beverly

Current Team: Los Angeles Clippers

New Team: Los Angeles Lakers

Okay, this is interesting because of the situation the Lakers are in with the Anthony Davis trade. The Lakers will probably have a tough time finding players to fill up the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. I think Beverly would be a good addition to the Lakers, because they could use a game-controlling, defensive-minded point guard to help with all the scoring done by James, Davis and whoever will join the Lakers this offseason. I also think Rajon Rondo will try to work out a deal to stay for cheap, so the Lakers point position is set.

7. Derrick Rose

Current Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

New Team: San Antonio Spurs

Rose had a reemergence last season after struggling to get his career back on track in New York and Cleveland over the past few seasons. He even struggled with Minnesota a bit last year, but Rose managed to find himself this season. That’ll help him find a better role next year. I think the San Antonio Spurs will be a good fit. Coach Gregg Popovich has always been good at bringing on veteran players who are trying to continue a reemergence. Rose would fit well with what the Spurs like to do.

8. Ricky Rubio

Current Team: Utah Jazz

New Team: Indiana Pacers

After the Jazz traded for Mike Conley, it was obvious Rubio is on the move. Regardless of the trade, we already knew Rubio was leaving. I think Indiana will be his next destination. The Pacers have a lot of free agency questions they need to address, but the main target is a point guard because all other positions have a bit more depth. Plus, I think Darren Collison will be leaving too.

9. Darren Collison

Current Team: Indiana Pacers

New Team: Phoenix Suns

Speaking of Collison and leaving, I think he’ll be in a good spot with the Suns, who are in a position where they don’t have a true point guard. Collison isn’t a superstar guard, but he has the ability to be a great leader on the court. With Collison running point, it’ll be easier for shooting guard Devin Booker. I think this will be a nice addition to the team.

10. T.J. McConnell

Current Team: Philadelphia 76ers

New Team: Dallas Mavericks

This is an interesting addition to the Dallas Mavericks, because they will already have scorers in Luka Donicic and Kristap Porzingis. The addition of McConnell will provide them more shooting and a better ball handler at the point guard position. McConnell has proven himself as a shooter in the NBA, and the style of basketball the Mavericks play could benefit him a lot more than his time at Philadelphia.

Let us know what you think about these players and what team they’ll be playing for next season. Also, make sure to watch for the release of the other positions throughout the week as we head into free agency in July.

Could a Russell & Irving pairing be the next Harden & Paul?

The Brooklyn Nets are interested in a Russell & Irving pairing. Here’s why the two guards could end up making an impact for their team like Harden & Paul.

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2013 Brooklyn Nets 1” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0, and “Kyrie Irving” and “Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets” Erik Drost are licensed under CC BY 2.0

Kyrie Irving has been linked to several different destinations this coming offseason, the Knicks, Lakers and Celtics to name a few. A new team just realistically joined the mix. The Brooklyn Nets expressed their interest in signing Kyrie Irving to pair him with D’Angelo Russell.

On first thought, I didn’t think this would be a good pairing. How can two ball dominant guards coexist in the same backcourt? On second thought, I thought back to when Chris Paul joined the Houston Rockets a couple years back. I remember thinking the exact same thing about how Chris Paul and James Harden would coexist.

In two seasons together, James Harden and Chris Paul have had a lot of success together as teammates. Last season, they were one game away from making it to the NBA Finals. This season didn’t go as well as last for the Rockets, but Harden and Paul were able to carry the Rockets to the second round of the playoffs, where they were able to win two games against the Warriors.

If you ask me, the acquisition of Chris Paul has absolutely been worth it for the Rockets. If the Rockets have had great success with two ball dominant guards, why wouldn’t the Nets be able to do the same thing with Russell and Irving?

 

Russell & Irving vs Harden & Paul

Similarities:

Scoring

If Kyrie Irving was to join D’Angelo Russell on the Nets, both backcourts would feature a lot of similarities. The biggest similarity I see between these two backcourts, is their abilities to score. We all know James Harden can score almost at will. Chris Paul gets overshadowed by Harden on several occasions, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a great scoring guard. Paul has averaged 18.5 points over the course of his career.

Just as Harden & Paul are both great scorers, so are D’Angelo Russell & Kyrie Irving. Kyrie Irving has hit some big time shots during his NBA career. We know he can score, especially during the biggest moments. D’Angelo Russell is still a very young player, but he had a breakout season this year and should only become a better scorer as time goes on. A guard who averaged 23.8 points (Irving) and another who averaged 21.1 points per game (Russell) would be very difficult to stop.

 

Passing

James Harden and Chris Paul are both great scoring guards, but they’re also both great passers. We may not think of Russell & Irving as great passers, but they averaged 7.0 and 6.9 assists last season. That’s not much worse than Harden and Paul. Russell and Irving are more than capable of scoring the basketball, but also using their scoring ability to create open shots for their teammates.

The biggest problem I can see with Russell and Irving being in the backcourt together, is figuring out who’s going to take control of the ball at what times. It’s pretty clear that Chris Paul has taken a back seat to James Harden when it comes to handling the basketball. Would Kyrie Irving be willing to take a back seat to D’Angelo Russell? Or would Russell being willing to take a back seat to Irving?

If both guys are competing for the ball, things won’t work out well. However, if these two can share the ball equally and let the hot hand take over when needed, this backcourt combo of Russell and Irving could work out nicely.

 

Russell & Irving would elevate Nets

I’m not going to predict that if Irving joins forces with Russell, they’ll make it to the NBA Finals. However, I will predict that their combo in the backcourt would take this team further than they’ve been. I think they’d have a legit chance at competing in the Eastern Conference. Mark my words, if Russell and Irving come together on the Nets, they’ll be a one of the better teams in the East.

 

D'Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry

Is D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry?

PG D’Angelo Russell is in just his fourth NBA season, but he’s already on a path to greatness. The course of his career has gone differently to that of NBA star Steph Curry, but there are also a lot of similarities between the two. There are too many similarities to ignore. These similarities are so alike, I’m claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry.

D'Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You probably think I’m crazy right now after reading that last sentence. Yes, I did just compare D’Angelo Russell to Steph Curry. It’s understandable to think I’m crazy for claiming this, but at least give me a chance to explain. Below are five reasons why D’Angelo Russell is the next Steph Curry. Keep in mind, while I do somewhat compare Russell to Curry as he is now, the comparisons are mostly based on Russell and Curry as players in their fourth NBA seasons.

 

1. Three-pointers

It’s tough to compare anyone to one of the best shooters in NBA history. Steph Curry has his name all over the three-point record books. He holds four of the top five spots in three-pointers made in a season. His five seasons leading the league in three-pointers made is more than anyone in history. He’s got the record for most consecutive games with a three-pointer made. Want me to keep going? I could probably go for a while.

If Curry owns so many three-point records and is well on his way to several more, how can we compare him to D’Angelo Russell? Well, it was just three days ago D’Angelo Russell became the youngest player in NBA history to make 500 three-pointers. In just his fourth season and at the age of 22, Russell has started his own path to NBA greatness.

To be fair to Curry, he entered the league at the age of 21. Russell entered the league at the age of 19. With a two year difference in the start of their careers, of course it was going to be much easier for Russell to break this record. With that being said, we can’t take away this accomplishment from D’Angelo Russell. About two-thirds of the way through his fourth season, D’Angelo Russell has recorded 514 three-pointers. If he keeps his current pace of averaging 2.7 made three-pointers per game the rest of this season, that would put him at 579 made three-pointers through four seasons.

Through Curry’s first four NBA seasons, he made a total of 644 three-pointers. That’s 65 more three-pointers than Russell if Russell keeps his current pace. That may seem like a significant amount, but here’s what we have to keep in mind: Curry started 43 more games during his first two NBA seasons than D’Angelo Russell. Curry also averaged 34.1 minutes per game during his first four seasons, while Russell has only averaged 28.3 minutes per game in his first four years. Give D’Angelo Russell 43 more starts in his first two seasons and an average of six more minutes per game in his first four seasons. I have no doubt he’d be right there with Curry’s three-pointers based on his first four seasons.

Based on this assessment, it sure does look like claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry has a strong argument.

 

2. Points and assists per game

If I’m going to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, I have to give a stronger argument than just three-pointers, although I do think that was a pretty strong argument. Now I’m going to look into two key point guard stats, scoring and assists.

It wasn’t until Curry’s fourth NBA season he averaged over 20 points per game. Similarly, it wasn’t until D’Angelo Russell’s fourth NBA season that he’s averaged over 20 points per game. As of right now, Russell is averaging 20.3. It wasn’t until Curry’s fourth NBA season he averaged over six assists per game. Similarly, it wasn’t until D’Angelo Russell’s fourth NBA season that he’s averaging over six assists per game, 6.6 to be exact. One thing working for D’Angelo Russell, is the fact that his best FG percentage has come in his fourth NBA season. That was not the case for Curry, although his FG percentage in his fourth season was a little better than Russell’s this season.

Based on these stats, you can see that it took a few years for both of these guys to really start to find who they were as NBA players. After Curry’s fourth season, his scoring average continued to improve. His next two seasons were consistent, with averages of 24.0 and 23.8. The next season, Curry’s average went way up 30.1. In the next three seasons, Curry has averaged 25.3, 26.4 and 28.6 points per game. I’m not saying D’Angelo Russell will score 30+ points per game in three seasons, but based on how his career has gone so far, it looks like he’ll have a solid increase in points per game over the next phase of his career.

Just to quickly mention the assists, Curry has averaged a high of 8.5 and a low of 5.2 assists in a season since his fourth year. The seasons in between have been somewhere between six and seven assists. I don’t know if Russell will ever average 8.5 assists, but I can see him consistently putting up six or more assists per game for the next several years. With these numbers and comparisons above, it doesn’t look crazy to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry.

 

3. All-Star games

Still need more convincing to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry? Okay, I’ve got more for you.

It took Steph Curry four seasons to average over 20 points and six assists. D’Angelo Russell matched him there, at least to this point in the season. How long did it take Curry to make an All-Star game? It wasn’t until Curry’s fifth NBA season that he was elected to an All-Star game. How long did it take D’Angelo Russell? Russell has made it to the All-Star game in his fourth NBA season, one season before Curry made it. Yes, Russell was an alternate to the game because of an injury to Victor Oladipo, but many people thought he deserved to be in anyway.

I’ll admit, this isn’t the greatest argument to claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, but anything helps, right? If Russell continues his upward trajectory as a player, I don’t see any reason why he won’t be elected to the All-Star game every year from here on out.

 

4. Team success

Everyone looks at the Warriors now and sees greatness. They see the most dominate team in the NBA. What people forget a lot of the time, is the fact that this dominate team didn’t happen overnight. Steph Curry didn’t lead his team to success until a few years after he entered the league. It wasn’t until Curry’s fourth NBA season he was able to take the Warriors to the playoffs.

Guess who else is likely to take their team to the playoffs in his fourth NBA season? That’s right, it’s D’Angelo Russell. The Brooklyn Nets are currently the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, holding a record of 30-29. Oh, and just like the Nets are currently the No. 6 seed in Russell’s fourth season, the Warriors made the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in Curry’s fourth season.

If D’Angelo Russell continues to improve as he should, the Brooklyn Nets will only work their way up the Eastern Conference standings over the years. I’m not saying the Nets are going to make the NBA Finals four straight times and win three championships. I’m not saying D’Angelo Russell is going to lead the Nets to breaking the best regular season record of all-time. Those things are extremely hard to do. What I am saying, is that with Russell leading this team, they look like a team who will continue to improve and be more competitive as time goes on.

I’m claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, but I’m not sure he has the next Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Steve Kerr for a head coach. I’m not sure Russell is going to get a guy like Kevin Durant to come play with him. The Nets have some nice pieces who should also get better with Russell, but it’s very difficult to replicate the success the Warriors have had.

 

5. Being ‘the guy’

There are other points I could make to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, but I’ll end with this point. In Curry’s fourth NBA season, I think it was safe to say he became ‘the guy’ for the Warriors. He was the leading scorer on his team, and was the guy they went to when they needed to score.

This is also the case for D’Angelo Russell. In Russell’s fourth NBA season, we’ve seen him truly take over as ‘the guy’ for the Nets. Russell is not only the leading scorer for the Nets this season, but he’s the guy they look to in big moments. Let’s use last night’s game against the Cavaliers as an example. When the Nets were down 107-109 with 1:01 left in the game, D’Angelo Russell scores a basket to tie it up at 109-109. Then with 16.0 seconds left in OT, Russell hit two free throws to put the Nets up 118-116. In 3OT, D’Angelo Russell helped the Nets pull away. Russell made the first five baskets for the Nets in 3OT, scoring their first 11 points. Russell also added another three-pointer with 43.5 seconds left to put the Nets up 144-137, giving him 14 points in 3OT. It’s safe to say he’s ‘the guy.’

How many times have we seen Steph Curry go off like that in a moment when the Warriors need him most? Several times. Last night’s game is only one example from D’Angelo Russell, but I have no doubt we’ll see it many more times from him.

 

D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry?

Even after all that, you may still think it’s crazy to compare a fourth year NBA player to the greatest shooter of all-time, but let me ask you something. How many people considered Steph Curry the greatest shooter of all-time when he was in his fourth NBA season? That’s right, not many, if any at all. It wasn’t until he started breaking three-point records, making the playoffs and winning championships that he was given that title. So yes, Russell is in his fourth NBA season, but he’s clearly on the path to being a great NBA player. Maybe he never wins MVP. Maybe he never wins an NBA championship, let alone three. Regardless of that, D’Angelo Russell has the potential to do so.

It’s early in his career, but it’s not too early to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry.