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Is D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry?

PG D’Angelo Russell is in just his fourth NBA season, but he’s already on a path to greatness. The course of his career has gone differently to that of NBA star Steph Curry, but there are also a lot of similarities between the two. There are too many similarities to ignore. These similarities are so alike, I’m claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry.

You probably think I’m crazy right now after reading that last sentence. Yes, I did just compare D’Angelo Russell to Steph Curry. It’s understandable to think I’m crazy for claiming this, but at least give me a chance to explain. Below are five reasons why D’Angelo Russell is the next Steph Curry. Keep in mind, while I do somewhat compare Russell to Curry as he is now, the comparisons are mostly based on Russell and Curry as players in their fourth NBA seasons.

 

1. Three-pointers

It’s tough to compare anyone to one of the best shooters in NBA history. Steph Curry has his name all over the three-point record books. He holds four of the top five spots in three-pointers made in a season. His five seasons leading the league in three-pointers made is more than anyone in history. He’s got the record for most consecutive games with a three-pointer made. Want me to keep going? I could probably go for a while.

If Curry owns so many three-point records and is well on his way to several more, how can we compare him to D’Angelo Russell? Well, it was just three days ago D’Angelo Russell became the youngest player in NBA history to make 500 three-pointers. In just his fourth season and at the age of 22, Russell has started his own path to NBA greatness.

To be fair to Curry, he entered the league at the age of 21. Russell entered the league at the age of 19. With a two year difference in the start of their careers, of course it was going to be much easier for Russell to break this record. With that being said, we can’t take away this accomplishment from D’Angelo Russell. About two-thirds of the way through his fourth season, D’Angelo Russell has recorded 514 three-pointers. If he keeps his current pace of averaging 2.7 made three-pointers per game the rest of this season, that would put him at 579 made three-pointers through four seasons.

Through Curry’s first four NBA seasons, he made a total of 644 three-pointers. That’s 65 more three-pointers than Russell if Russell keeps his current pace. That may seem like a significant amount, but here’s what we have to keep in mind: Curry started 43 more games during his first two NBA seasons than D’Angelo Russell. Curry also averaged 34.1 minutes per game during his first four seasons, while Russell has only averaged 28.3 minutes per game in his first four years. Give D’Angelo Russell 43 more starts in his first two seasons and an average of six more minutes per game in his first four seasons. I have no doubt he’d be right there with Curry’s three-pointers based on his first four seasons.

Based on this assessment, it sure does look like claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry has a strong argument.

 

2. Points and assists per game

If I’m going to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, I have to give a stronger argument than just three-pointers, although I do think that was a pretty strong argument. Now I’m going to look into two key point guard stats, scoring and assists.

It wasn’t until Curry’s fourth NBA season he averaged over 20 points per game. Similarly, it wasn’t until D’Angelo Russell’s fourth NBA season that he’s averaged over 20 points per game. As of right now, Russell is averaging 20.3. It wasn’t until Curry’s fourth NBA season he averaged over six assists per game. Similarly, it wasn’t until D’Angelo Russell’s fourth NBA season that he’s averaging over six assists per game, 6.6 to be exact. One thing working for D’Angelo Russell, is the fact that his best FG percentage has come in his fourth NBA season. That was not the case for Curry, although his FG percentage in his fourth season was a little better than Russell’s this season.

Based on these stats, you can see that it took a few years for both of these guys to really start to find who they were as NBA players. After Curry’s fourth season, his scoring average continued to improve. His next two seasons were consistent, with averages of 24.0 and 23.8. The next season, Curry’s average went way up 30.1. In the next three seasons, Curry has averaged 25.3, 26.4 and 28.6 points per game. I’m not saying D’Angelo Russell will score 30+ points per game in three seasons, but based on how his career has gone so far, it looks like he’ll have a solid increase in points per game over the next phase of his career.

Just to quickly mention the assists, Curry has averaged a high of 8.5 and a low of 5.2 assists in a season since his fourth year. The seasons in between have been somewhere between six and seven assists. I don’t know if Russell will ever average 8.5 assists, but I can see him consistently putting up six or more assists per game for the next several years. With these numbers and comparisons above, it doesn’t look crazy to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry.

 

3. All-Star games

Still need more convincing to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry? Okay, I’ve got more for you.

It took Steph Curry four seasons to average over 20 points and six assists. D’Angelo Russell matched him there, at least to this point in the season. How long did it take Curry to make an All-Star game? It wasn’t until Curry’s fifth NBA season that he was elected to an All-Star game. How long did it take D’Angelo Russell? Russell has made it to the All-Star game in his fourth NBA season, one season before Curry made it. Yes, Russell was an alternate to the game because of an injury to Victor Oladipo, but many people thought he deserved to be in anyway.

I’ll admit, this isn’t the greatest argument to claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, but anything helps, right? If Russell continues his upward trajectory as a player, I don’t see any reason why he won’t be elected to the All-Star game every year from here on out.

 

4. Team success

Everyone looks at the Warriors now and sees greatness. They see the most dominate team in the NBA. What people forget a lot of the time, is the fact that this dominate team didn’t happen overnight. Steph Curry didn’t lead his team to success until a few years after he entered the league. It wasn’t until Curry’s fourth NBA season he was able to take the Warriors to the playoffs.

Guess who else is likely to take their team to the playoffs in his fourth NBA season? That’s right, it’s D’Angelo Russell. The Brooklyn Nets are currently the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, holding a record of 30-29. Oh, and just like the Nets are currently the No. 6 seed in Russell’s fourth season, the Warriors made the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in Curry’s fourth season.

If D’Angelo Russell continues to improve as he should, the Brooklyn Nets will only work their way up the Eastern Conference standings over the years. I’m not saying the Nets are going to make the NBA Finals four straight times and win three championships. I’m not saying D’Angelo Russell is going to lead the Nets to breaking the best regular season record of all-time. Those things are extremely hard to do. What I am saying, is that with Russell leading this team, they look like a team who will continue to improve and be more competitive as time goes on.

I’m claiming D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, but I’m not sure he has the next Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Steve Kerr for a head coach. I’m not sure Russell is going to get a guy like Kevin Durant to come play with him. The Nets have some nice pieces who should also get better with Russell, but it’s very difficult to replicate the success the Warriors have had.

 

5. Being ‘the guy’

There are other points I could make to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry, but I’ll end with this point. In Curry’s fourth NBA season, I think it was safe to say he became ‘the guy’ for the Warriors. He was the leading scorer on his team, and was the guy they went to when they needed to score.

This is also the case for D’Angelo Russell. In Russell’s fourth NBA season, we’ve seen him truly take over as ‘the guy’ for the Nets. Russell is not only the leading scorer for the Nets this season, but he’s the guy they look to in big moments. Let’s use last night’s game against the Cavaliers as an example. When the Nets were down 107-109 with 1:01 left in the game, D’Angelo Russell scores a basket to tie it up at 109-109. Then with 16.0 seconds left in OT, Russell hit two free throws to put the Nets up 118-116. In 3OT, D’Angelo Russell helped the Nets pull away. Russell made the first five baskets for the Nets in 3OT, scoring their first 11 points. Russell also added another three-pointer with 43.5 seconds left to put the Nets up 144-137, giving him 14 points in 3OT. It’s safe to say he’s ‘the guy.’

How many times have we seen Steph Curry go off like that in a moment when the Warriors need him most? Several times. Last night’s game is only one example from D’Angelo Russell, but I have no doubt we’ll see it many more times from him.

 

D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry?

Even after all that, you may still think it’s crazy to compare a fourth year NBA player to the greatest shooter of all-time, but let me ask you something. How many people considered Steph Curry the greatest shooter of all-time when he was in his fourth NBA season? That’s right, not many, if any at all. It wasn’t until he started breaking three-point records, making the playoffs and winning championships that he was given that title. So yes, Russell is in his fourth NBA season, but he’s clearly on the path to being a great NBA player. Maybe he never wins MVP. Maybe he never wins an NBA championship, let alone three. Regardless of that, D’Angelo Russell has the potential to do so.

It’s early in his career, but it’s not too early to claim D’Angelo Russell the next Steph Curry.

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