Magic Johnson: D’Angelo Russell has really grown and matured

When the Los Angeles Lakers took D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, it was clear he had the potential to be a very good point guard.

He showed flashes of that potential in his first two seasons, but interspersed between those flashes were periods of immaturity, including his infamous social media incident involving then-teammate Nick Young.

Los Angeles traded him on draft day 2017 along with center Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and the draft rights to Kyle Kuzma. Since then, Russell’s play has been up and down, but he’s putting together arguably his best season yet this year.

While he’s averaging a very strong 17.9 points and 6.2 assists per game this season, he has routinely put up such numbers, if not better numbers since leaving L.A. It’s his 46.4 percent overall shooting accuracy and 39.0 percent 3-point shooting that has raised eyebrows.

Russell was sent back to the Lakers two weeks ago in a blockbuster trade involving Russell Westbrook, and their fanbase is starting to see how much he has grown over the past several years.

One man who has noticed that growth is Lakers great Magic Johnson, who was the team’s president of basketball operations when Russell was traded away in 2017.

In an interview with USA Today’s Bryan Kalbrosky, Johnson expressed plenty of confidence and optimism in the latter-day Russell, not to mention the team as a whole.

Via USA Today FTW:

“I think D’Angelo has really grown and matured. He can score the basketball. He can pass the basketball. He doesn’t turn it over a lot. That’s what I like about him, too. That pick-and-roll with Anthony Davis is going to be special. You have to pick your poison for what you try to do whether it’s Russell coming off the PnR (pick and roll) or Anthony Davis rolling to the basket and they’ll have some more time playing with LeBron [James]. If the Lakers can get in (to the playoffs), and I think they will, nobody is going to want to play them. That’s for sure.”

There were glimpses of the Russell pick-and-roll action Johnson referred to last Wednesday when the Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 120-102. No longer will opponents be able to go under screens or use drop coverage as they did with Westbrook.

Clearly, Russell fits the Lakers better than that other man whose first name is Russell, and with a deeper and more balanced roster, they have the opportunity to not only make the playoffs but to also cause some damage in the Western Conference once there.

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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire