So far D’Angelo Russell has struggled, but the answer to why isn’t as clear cut as it may seem.

Russell has enormous expectations in L.A. and fans are questioning whether the Lakers chose the right guy at #2 over the likes of Jahlil Okafor.

Here are three reasons why Russell has failed to meet expectations so far:

1. Byron Scott – The scapegoat. Some of it is deserved by limiting Russell’s playing time, having him run the Princeton Offense (terrible fit) and discussing why the Lakers decided against selecting other players in the draft (Porzingis and Mudiay recently). But according to stats guru Eric Pincus, the Lakers actually run the pick and roll frequently (3rd most in the league); meanwhile this time last season Jordan Clarkson played much less than Russell and that’s turned out well. Scott is noted for developing Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving so this is nothing new, but the following three players did see more minutes on the floor (all 30+ per game vs. Russell’s 24 mpg).

So the question is: what is Scott seeing that he doesn’t feel confident enough to play Russell more, especially late in the game? 

2. Hollywood Swagger – From the moment Russell showed up at the 2015 NBA Draft, the suit he wore drew more attention than any other player. When Commissioner Silver called Russell’s name with the Lakers #2 pick, the crowd erupted. Call the Lakers gamblers, but they must have seen something in private workouts that swayed them towards choosing Russell. If anything Russell has embraced the spotlight and lifestyle of L.A. From his rumored dating of Kendall Jenner to his off-court marketing appeal, at least the City of Lights seems to vibe with his style. Russell is polished in front of the media, but are his answers more smoke and mirrors? Confidence on the court is usually seen through aggression and so far he’s tentative as best.

Critics believe if Russell got more playing time, his game would improve, yet there’s a lot he can learn from the bench also (ask Julius Randle about last year).

3. Work EthicIf Scott truly has his reservations about Russell and his confidence off the court isn’t translating on the court, what else could it be? Without taking sides on this matter, Scott traditionally is hard on rookies, yet played Paul and Irving a lot during their first seasons. Maybe Russell isn’t putting in the work at practice. Maybe he’s much more raw than the Lakers previously thought. Maybe his attention is more away from the court than on the game itself. It’s all speculation without proof, but based on Scott’s track record, he plays players when they earn it. Lakers fans hope Russell isn’t a bust and it’s way too early to determine that, but it’s definitely a cause for concern.

As much as Lakers fans are growing tired of being patient, Russell deserves at least a season’s worth of it. Yes, Scott can put Russell in more favorable spots such as the dominant ball handler, but at the same time Russell has to be more of a catalyst on his own. All the talk of Kobe Bryant’s potential last season has deflected some of the attention away from Russell and quite frankly he should be thankful for it.

Russell has a lot to prove to be worthy of the #2 pick and a future cornerstone for the proud Lakers franchise.

Only time will decide.

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Author, blogger, speaker & die-hard Lakers fan

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