D'Angelo Russell had to learn plenty of hard lessons during his rookie year, many of which concerned the differences in playing against grown, professional men instead of overmatched kids in the NCAA. The Los Angeles Lakers' young point guard realized this and is working on bulking up over the summer in addition to his extensive dribbling workouts and post-up drills.
"I'm just living in the weight room," Russell told Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com in a phone interview while on his trip to China. "Just trying to become stronger. Last season was a shock playing against grown men that have been in the league for multiple years. You compare your strength to theirs and see where you really are. That's something I want to focus on in this offseason."
Russell developing an NBA physique will make him more deadly in an area he showed some aptitude in already last season: the post. The 19-year old guard was able to use his superior size for his position to his advantage in post-ups against smaller lead guards, shooting 63.4 percent on his 41 shots NBA.com defined as "post-ups" last season.
If Russell can get stronger, what he could already do during his rookie season on post-ups like this one against the Chicago Bulls' Aaron Brooks offer reason to believe this allegedly dying aspect of the game could become a dangerous weapon for him.
Where the strength may help Russell more is finishing around the basket. He shot just 54.5 percent around the rim, which is only one percent below the league average for that area, but several percentage points lower than it will need to be if Russell wants to develop into an elite point guard.
Contact frequently goes uncalled around the rim, especially for rookies, and with another year of experience and some added bulk, Russell should be able to finish through contact and draw fouls around the basket more easily next season. Given that his game is predicated more on finding smart angles and positioning more so than superb quickness, the added weight seems unlikely to have any adverse effect on Russell.
On the other end of the floor, Russell showed promise defensively but was also prone to plenty of rookie mistakes or just plain getting overpowered. More strength will help with the latter, which is a necessary area of growth if Russell and his backcourt mate Jordan Clarkson are going to fulfill the front office's vision of having the two big, versatile guards be interchangeable on both ends of the floor.
Ramirez's whole piece is worth a read and includes details on Russell expressing confidence in Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to make the right choice with the second overall pick, as well as Clarkson working on his three-point shooting and his thoughts on Luke Walton.
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