In what could largely be credited to D’Angelo Russell, the Brooklyn Nets officially had a winning season and will be headed to the NBA playoffs. However, Russell himself enters the playoffs on an incredible run.
The best thing about the Brooklyn Nets and D’Angelo Russell is not only that they have made the playoffs, but how it has all happened. Not only have the Nets made the playoffs, they did it with room to spare. They clinched before their last game and they have two teams below them in the standings.
Also, what is great about the Nets making the playoffs is that they might actually have the star power to not have their stay there be short-lived. What do most of, if not all of, the top teams in the playoffs have? A superstar.
What defines a superstar is a matter of opinion. But in its generic form, a superstar could simply just be defined as an elite or extraordinary player. The Bucks have Giannis. The Rockets have Harden. The Warriors have Steph, KD. The Raptors have Kahwi. The Celtics Kyrie. The Nets’ opponent in the first round, the Sixers, have Embiid. You get the point yet? I don’t even need to you use their full names, if you are reading this article, you likely already know them.
The bad news is the Nets will be playing the Sixers in Philly. The good news is the Nets have D’Angelo. You know his full name, he might be a superstar, because he has been playing like one.
In the Nets’ last 10 games, Russell has led the Nets in scoring in eight of them. His highest of the eight was his 44 point outburst in Sacramento and his lowest was 20, but his 20 in Indiana was the game they actually clinched.
Let’s add this in too- in nine of those same 10 games, Russell also led the team in assists with a high of 13 vs the Lakers and a low of five in the finale against the Heat.
I know what you may be thinking, how is this news? This is what superstars do they lead their team. That’s exactly my point. The Nets could easily be getting contributions from random players, they are in other ways, but they now have a true superstar type leader that the elite teams have.
For more reference, the Sixers, who the Nets play, while they are struggling with injuries, have had five different leading scorers in their last 10 games for them. Embiid has the most such games, but he has been injured.
And even just to throw in the Atlantic Division winning Raptors, Kawhi Leonard has only been the leading scorer for the Raptors four of the last 10 games, but the Raptors haven’t been playing for much and were preparing for the playoffs. He did once go seven times out of 10 games as the leading scorer in the regular season.
So, while I am not saying that D’Angelo Russell is going to lead the Nets to three series wins and a run to the NBA Finals, I can say that he is on an incredible run right now. He is scoring a lot of points, a lot of assists, and putting the team on his back. The difference is that the Nets have needed him all the way up to game 81 while some teams above the Nets haven’t needed as much from their star players.
The point is that the Nets, while still an underdog team who are not built as well as a team like even the Sixers, it is not exactly because they don’t have that one true superstar player, they have a superstar player. The Nets’ real problem is that they don’t have enough D’Angelo Russell’s to go around. The more other teams have might end up helping them and hurting the Nets.
Either way, and whether this series vs the Sixers ends in four games or seven games, whether the Nets end up winning it or losing it, the run that D’Angelo Russell has been on is incredible. He has taken a team who earlier this year was often led by bench players such as Allen Crabbe and Spencer Dinwiddie and taken them to the playoffs. Again, led by him, a true superstar, getting superstar minutes, and producing at a high level.
The Brooklyn Nets are playoff bound. Nobody can take that away from them. The Sixers might try to knock them out of the playoffs early, but they will have to through D’Angelo Russell. I am not a betting man, but I wouldn’t put too much money on them being able to stop him.