D’Angelo Russell continued his Summer League dominance in the Laker’s 78-65 thrashing of the Warriors on Monday night in Las Vegas. The sophomore standout dropped 26 points in 23 minutes (22 in the first half alone), and proved to be impossible to guard. Russell showed total control of the team when on the court, functioning as a floor general, primary scorer, and team leader. Strong play on the defensive side from Ivica Zubac and Anthony Brown helped the Lakers quickly take and maintain a solid lead on the Warriors, who struggled to mitigate Russell’s early scoring onslaught. Warriors diminutive but quick point guard Keifer Sykes led the way for Golden State with 16 points, and Vegas product Patrick MaCaw showed flashes of star potential with 13 points and 4 takeaways. Warriors enormous undrafted free agent, the 7’6’’ Mamadou Ndiaye out of UC Irvine, was a fan favorite at the game, but played poorly in limited minutes.
What we already knew?
D’Angelo Russell has NBA superstar written all over him, and his participation in the 2016 Summer League, while fun for the fans, seems more like a formality than an opportunity for development. Thousands of articles on the web asking the question of “Who is the next Kobe Bryant?” continue to serve as click bait, but miss the point entirely. Instead of looking in the past or on other teams for the next Lakers superstar, it is clear that Lakers fans just need to train their eyes on the budding phenom in the current Lakers locker room who wears the number 1.
What was surprising?
Ivica Zubac might be able to shoot the basketball. While there are certainly scouting reports out on Zubac (including this excellent one by Lakers Pulse author Nelson Espinal), the overall conversation on Zubac has always been about his potential in the post. If he can continue to make mid to long range jump shots like he did against Golden State, the discussion on his NBA ceiling and player comparisons will quickly change.
What we did not like?
Having a poor performance in a single summer league game is basically insignificant for an NBA player with a positive track record of regular season basketball. Setting aside Larry Nance Jr.’s poor performance (0 PTS, 2 TO, 4 RBS) against the Warriors seems like a given, especially after his excellent play in the first two contests. However, his play on Monday night may serve to help dampen the Nance Jr. hysteria among many Lakers fans on social media and in the stands at summer league, who have already began calling for Nance to start over Julius Randle at power forward position when the regular season begins in October.
D’Angelo Russell was clearly the most talented and polished player in the building. Aside from the excellent shooting from range and precision passing that he demonstrated last season, Russell showed improvement in the ability to get defenders off base and drive the lane, with excellent body control. He consistently used jab steps, directional changes, and up fakes to get a shoulder ahead of the defender and frequently coasted to the rim for easy floaters or wide open assists to cutting teammates.
Anthony Brown had a great game on the defensive end, sagging into the post for help defense, using his hands actively, and leaking out quickly into the break on turnovers and long rebounds. However, his shooting woes continued throughout the game, with an air ball at the 6 minute mark and a host of missed long jump shots. Brown finished with 8 points.
Early on, Ivica Zubac went right after defenders offensively, but looked lost on defense at times especially in pick and roll defense. He lived up to the popular nickname “Zublock” with a strong showing as a rim defender, and showed a surprisingly accurate midrange game that may be a valuable weapon for him moving forward. Zubac scored 9 points and collected 5 rebounds in approximately 20 minutes of play.
Rookie Brandon Ingram showed off quick hands and long arms, stretching out and grabbing balls out of passing lanes and off the rim. He showed no fear, going strong to the basket on multiple occasions, either drawing a foul or getting an easy midrange shot opportunity. While he shot poorly (0-7), he chipped in 7 points from the charity stripe and gathered 7 rebounds.
Mustapha Fall showed aggression on the boards, and functioned as a decent rim defender, despite his frail frame. Offensively, Fall showed flashes as a pick and roll partner, and was a willing cutter into open space, benefitting with easy buckets when the Warriors defense left him alone in the low post. Fall seemed to be in all the right places, but did not have a handle on how to avoid calls, tallying a game high 7 personal fouls.
The Lakers (3-0) will now play either the Boston Celtics or the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday the 14th at 7:30pm, as part the playoffs portion of the tournament.