D’Angelo Russell hits restricted free agency this summer after a breakout year for the Brooklyn Nets. How much money will he command on the market?
D’Angelo Russell and Devin Booker have been friends since 2011, when they bonded after competitive duels at the Nike Elite 100 Camp. So when the Phoenix Suns guard signed a five-year, $158 million max contract last July, the Brooklyn Nets guard found himself motivated by his friend’s success.
Booker acknowledged that Russell was using the max deal to motivate himself in advance of the 2018-19 season.
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Eight months after Booker got his deal, Russell is now approaching restricted free agency after a breakout year with the Nets. He earned his first All-Star nod and surprised many around the league by leading Brooklyn to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets have a promising young core and could be in play for some of the marquee free agents this summer. So how much money should they be willing to give D’Angelo Russell?
Last season, in his first with the Nets, Russell struggled after going down with a knee injury early in the season and never really came into his own.
This season has been a different story for the Ohio State product. He’s averaging 20.2 points, 6.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game while slashing .431/.361/.805 and is showcasing the potential that made the Los Angeles Lakers select him with the second overall pick back in 2015.
Opposing general managers and front office members have taken note of Russell’s improved play ahead of his free agency.
While Russell is in his fourth season in the league, it’s important to note that at 23, he is still extremely young for someone with his experience.
Here’s a list of players who, since the turn of the century, have averaged 20 points, six assists and two 3-pointers made per game before the age of 25: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas, Damian Lillard, Booker and Russell.
Not a bad list to be on, especially since all of these players other than Booker were, at one time or another in their career, all-NBA level players.
In fact, there are only seven players averaging 20 points and five assists with two 3s made per game who are under the age of 28 in the league today: Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Kemba Walker, Luka Doncic, Lillard, Booker and Russell.
If we take out the rookie sensation Doncic, who’s on a team-friendly deal, the average salary for those players next season is around $23.5 million (using Kemba’s current $12 million mark and Kyrie’s $21 million player option).
Having just turned 23, Russell is one of the youngest in the group and the Nets should have no reservations in giving the newly minted All-Star a contract in that range annually.
Russell has clearly bought in to the culture and fresh start he was afforded in Brooklyn.
Under the guidance of coach Kenny Atkinson, he has blossomed into the player he showed the potential of becoming at Ohio State and has rewarded the Nets for their gamble in trading for the Louisville, Ky., native.
While the Nets have plenty of cap space, it’s important they keep hold of Russell – even for $20 million-plus annually – to keep this group together and build on the progress they have made over the past few campaigns.
Russell has become more and more effective every year in the league and there’s no reason why he won’t continue that trend if he signs a long-term deal with the Nets this summer.