The Brooklyn Nets took its first major step towards rebuild after trading Brook Lopez’s expiring contract and the no.27 pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for point guard D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. Setting aside absorbing Mozgov’s atrocious $16M per year deal, the centerpiece of the deal is none other than the 21-year old Russell – the no.2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Russell’s arrival

Nets General Manager Sean Marks finally pulled off a big coup one-and-half years into his regime by flipping an expiring deal and a late first-round pick for Russell.

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The Lakers traded their former lottery pick in order to dump Mozgov’s contract, allowing them to create as much as $60 million in cap space next summer. Magic Johnson believes Russell has All-Star potential but he had to opt for a better floor leader in Lonzo Ball.

However, the Nets apparently see great value in Russell. At 6-foot-5, 195-pound, Russell is flexible enough to play both the point and off-guard positions. In addition, the former Ohio State Buckeyes standout is just one of six players (James Harden, Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili, Larry Bird and Steph Curry) to average around 14 points, 4 assists, 3 assists and shot 35 percent from the three-point arc over their first two seasons.

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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who came from the same draft as Russell, believes the young point guard will eventually shake away the immaturity issues he had in Los Angeles. He also sees no reason Russell will fit in nicely with point guard Jeremy Lin whom he considered an unselfish player.

Co-existing with J-Lin

Russell’s arrival provides both opportunity and threat to Lin in Brooklyn. With Lopez now in Los Angeles, Marks consider Lin as the leader of the team moving forward.

Lin, who was hampered by hamstring injuries for the majority of the 2016-17 season but still put up 14.5 ppg on 43.8 percent FG shooting along with 5.1 apg and 3.8 apg, really thinks he can co-exist with another combo guard on the same backcourt. He pointed out the success he had while playing next to another score-first point guard like Kemba Walker in Charlotte two years ago.

“What he showed in LA is probably not the full picture of who he really is as a player.

I think we’re going to get him in hopefully a really great situation,” said Lin, who is scheduled to earn $12.5 million next season and has a player’s option worth the same amount for the 2018-19 season.

As for any possibility of Lin getting traded, the Nets will likely stick with Lin-Russell backcourt for the first half of the season before gauging Lin’s market value at the trade deadline. Many teams are expected to make a run at the 28-year old point guard, especially if he stays healthy and put up strong numbers.

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While Marks values Lin’s locker room presence, he won’t have any second though converting Lin into a potential first-round pick or a high-upside young player. The Nets are hoping Russell can bring long-term stability at the point guard position, allowing them to freely use their veterans as trade chips.

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