The first time D’Angelo Russell played as a nominal point guard in high level basketball was in the NBA, so it would make sense if the Los Angeles Lakers guard didn’t feel particularly attached to the position.
According to Jovan Buha, that’s exactly the case, writing that Russell told reporters “he has no preference for which guard position he plays, as long as he's on the floor.”
Russell has mostly played point guard this year, to varying results. He has assisted on 28.1 percent of his teammates baskets while on the floor (the highest rate on the team) but he’s also faced a creativity tax, turning the ball over 12.3 percent of the time.
When working without dribbling the air out of the ball as he’s often had to do as one of the few playmakers, Russell has played better, as his shooting percentage improves on shots he holds the ball for less time on.
The latter stat would seem to lend credence to Russell faring well in a role that’s more off the ball, but such usage would also take away the benefits of his playmaking. It’s a conundrum the Lakers will have to solve, but right now it sounds like their main focus is on Russell playing hard no matter what role he’s in:
Walton, Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Brian Shaw have all told Russell they want him to be more aggressive no matter his role.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 17, 2017
Walton sees Russell has seemed a bit down past 2 games. I asked if he wants a better response: "Yeah of course I want him to respond better"— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 17, 2017
Will Russell start to play better (and more aggressively) in his new role, or will Walton eventually shift him back to his old one? We’ll just have to wait and see.