Would You Rather: Build Around NBA All-Star D'Angelo Russell or Kyrie Irving
By Max Staley
Cover Photo: Getty Images
D'Angelo Russell finally delivered on all the promise that once made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He took a massive step forward in the 2018-19 season, averaging 21.1 points per game (PPG) and 7.0 assists per game (APG) while shooting 36.9 percent from beyond the arc, all of which were career highs.
Despite Russell's progress, rumors are indicating that the Brooklyn Nets are aggressively pursuing mercurial superstar Kyrie Irving this summer. Given that Russell and Irving play the same position, the two All-Star point guards co-existing in Brooklyn appears unlikely.
And if the Nets do sign Irving, it's highly unlikely that Russell calls Brooklyn home again next season.
When just glancing at the statistics, accomplishments and resume of each player, the answer as to which player an NBA might want to build around is quite clear – it's Irving, and it's not particularly close.
Irving averaged 23.8 PPG for the Celtics last season, he's been playing at an elite level for far longer than Russell has, and Kyrie hit the game-winning shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals – a shot that won the Cleveland Cavaliers their only championship.
However, basketball isn't played on paper, and Irving does not come without baggage. The Celtics were seemingly a far more talented team than their 49-33 regular-season record would lead you to believe. Most of the team's shortcomings were attributed to a lack of chemistry, and Irving's divisive post-game comments were often viewed as the cause for many of the controversies that plagued the Celtics this past season.
While Irving's off-court comments are troubling, it's his injury history that should really give teams a cause for concern. Irving has never played in all 82 regular-season games during his eight-year NBA career, topping out at 75 games in the 2014-15 season. His knee issues kept him out of the 2015-16 NBA Finals, and flared up once again in 2017-18, causing him to miss the postseason that year.
It doesn't appear to be getting any better, as Irving only played 67 games in 2018-19 with the Celtics, mostly due to that bum knee. Russell has battled his own injuries, but he's never dealt with anything as serious as Irving's litany of knee issues, and the Nets' star played 81 games last season. He also played in 80 games during his rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2015-16 season.
While Irving has the advantage in nearly every statistical category (efficiency, PPG, RPG), but his off-court and injury history are admittedly a bit concerning. Russell is still only 23 years old, so it's not a stretch to think he could one day approximate Irving's on-floor production.
And given the concerns surrounding Irving, Russell actually looks he could be the safer investment this NBA offseason.
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Max Staley is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Max Staley also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mstaley1212. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.