Returning from Injury:
Even after being activated, Kenny Atkinson eased him back into the rotation, the appropriate course of action when a player is coming off of a severe injury. To say there were struggles would be an understatement. In Russell’s first three games back he totaled 11 points. It was apparent that both his explosiveness and shooting touch had faded during his time off.
Arguably his worst showing of the year came post-injury. On March 16, a 120-116 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, D’Angelo Russell was a miserable 3-for-14 from the floor and recorded just eight points in 27 minutes. The lack of scoring wasn’t the issue; we had seen that before. But the volume didn’t do anyone any favors. He, however, would bounce back and score at least 10 points in 11 of his 13 final games.
Since Russell has to maintain a considerable load on offense, his defense is going to suffer. This is nothing new. He wasn’t a good defender in Los Angeles or at Ohio State. He’s not quick laterally and doesn’t boast tremendous length, but quick hands and anticipation help him pick a steal or two every so often. Fortunately, D’Angelo Russell is far from the worst defender in the league. Basketball Reference uses a metric called Defensive Box Plus/Minus that estimates a player’s production on a per 100 possession basis and compares it to the league average, which is zero. Russell stands at minus-1.2. That’s not terrible, but he won’t be making any All-Defensive teams.