There is only one obstacle blocking Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell’s path to NBA stardom.
His name is Brandon Ingram.
After a very up and down rookie season, Russell is poised to blossom under new head coach Luke Walton. Bringing some much needed joy back to the Lakers locker room, Walton plans on running his offense through the confident second year point guard.
After a dominant summer league performance and an offseason of hard work (headlined by morning practices dubbed “the Breakfast Club”), Russell is looking more like a leader and his potential is as high as ever. Everything seems to be going his way, Kobe has retired and the Lakers brass and fans alike need a star to turn to.
Russell is practically guaranteed the position of franchise player and unquestioned leader of Los Angeles for years to come.
Unless Brandon Ingram reaches his potential.
That’s right, the biggest threat to Russell is a lanky forward who is yet to even secure a starting position.
The 6’9 Duke alumni was selected with the number two overall pick in this year’s draft. Boasting dangerous range and shifty length and athleticism, Ingram has the potential to be a true superstar in the league.
Those that have been around him long enough rave about his humble attitude and killer work ethic. Ingram will no doubt be a hard working fan favorite with whom the Lakers fan base will inevitably fall in love with. This is what makes Ingram so dangerous to the development of Russell.
The Ohio State product was plagued with headlines last season, the worst documenting his leaked hidden camera footage of Nick Young and the alienation of his team. With questions about his maturity and athleticism from his first campaign looming over him, Russell needs to hit big this year. If not, he may find himself in many Laker fan’s hot seat and trade speculations throughout the year.
The addition of a bright eyed and highly likable Ingram only puts more pressure on Russell to succeed. It has already been noted that Laker brass is willing to depart with Russell for the right price, but Ingram has been virtually untouchable.
If the lanky rookie from Duke can perform well enough to convince upper management, he will be thrust into the spotlight ahead of Russell.
Ingram boasts the length necessary to become an elite defender in the league, and his buttery jumper guarantees his opposition will have to prepare for him every game. The rookie possesses guard-like ball handling, and a deceptively quick first step. If he can put it all together, there’s no doubt he will become a top ten player.
While having two highly touted prospects playing different positions seems like a dream come true for Laker fans, it is yet to be seen how Russell will share the spotlight. Last season with Kobe Bryant was an anomaly, as any rookie would succumb to the greatness that is ‘The Mamba’ without hesitation.
Russell has showed on numerous occasions that he is still just a kid, and cocky one at that. From his increasingly confident ‘ice in his veins’ celebrations, to shouting curse words on live television, Russell has some serious growing up to do.
The Lakers guard no doubt has immense potential, but his attitude and confidence may be in for a rude awakening when Ingram steps on to the scene.