Russell impressed at the 2016 Las Vegas Summer League looking like the player the Lakers expected when they took him with second overall selection in last years' draft. Russell operated a ton with the ball in his hands, playing with pace, and showing a solid balance between looking to score and creating for his teammates. He is much more comfortable shooting it off the dribble then he is catch and shoot situations, something he will improve as he spends more time playing off the ball. At just 20 years old, Russell sometimes plays the game with a bit of comfort and flash that leads to highlight plays, but can also lead to a high volume of turnovers as evidenced by his 4.5 per game in Las Vegas. Obviously he was a focal point of the game plan for the Lakers, but it is something he will have to continue to work on down the road to limit his careless mistakes. Russell will likely be the starting point guard for the young Lakers backcourt next season, and he will have a great chance to benefit from the veteran guidance of Jose Calderon.
Although it is still extremely early in the season, and obviously premature to draw too many long-term conclusions, it is always interesting to study the steep transition young players are forced to make at the beginning of their NBA careers. This can teach us not only about what these players need to improve on as they gain experience and become more comfortable with their new teammates, role and the level of competition, but also about the NBA itself, particularly when we compare this new information with what we knew (or thought we knew) going into the season.
Five minutes of sweet/smooth D'Angelo Russell jumpers in a gym in Los Angeles. Watch the Ohio State phenom making shots from all over the floor, including spot-shooting, pull-ups, on the move and more.
-D'Angelo Russell: The elite shooting guard prospect measured right on par with expectations. Standing 6'3.25 without shoes, or a legit 6'5 in shoes, Russell has excellent size for a guard to go along with a 193 pound frame that he's added almost 20 pounds of muscle to over the last two years, along with a 6'9.75 wingspan. He has terrific length for his height, which sets him apart from many guard prospects we've seen recently. His closest physical comparison in terms of height and length is actually Victor Oladipo, who measured 6'3.25 without shoes with a 6'9.25 wingspan, albeit with a heavier 213-pound frame. Russell's hand size and width also rank well above average among the players in attendance here regardless of position. Combine all that with his sweet shooting stroke, tremendous court vision, ball-handling and creativity, and you have all the makings of an elite guard prospect.
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video analysis by Mike Schmitz
Not as heralded as some of his counterparts in the 2014 high school class, D'Angelo Russell nevertheless emerged as one of the best players in college basketball as a freshman. He was named a first team All-Big Ten player as well as freshman of the year, and led Ohio State to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to #2 seed Arizona.
Russell is not your typical uber-athletic, high-flying one and done lottery pick, relying much more on skill, feel and instincts than most freshmen. He has great size for the point guard position at 6-5, with solid length and a good frame that should fill out in time. His size, combined with his shooting ability and basketball IQ, gives him (and the coaching staff that will eventually utilize him) intriguing versatility, as he can be paired with many different styles of guards and wing players, allowing his team to take advantage of all kinds of mismatches and get very creative with the lineups and play-calls they throw out.
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Russell is already an advanced offensive player despite only turning 19 at the end of his freshman season, scoring an impressive 22 points per-40 minutes pace-adjusted, on solid efficiency (58% TS%). He was a much better shooter than he was billed as coming into college, hitting an outstanding 41% of his 3-pointers on the season despite being the focal point of every defense he went up against.
While very capable with his feet set (39% FG%, 1.11 points per possession), he's especially impressive with his ability to make shots off the dribble, hitting 44% of his shots in those situations, good for 1.04 points per possession, which ranks second among all college basketball players according to Synergy Sports Technology.
Russell is extremely difficult to contain in pick and roll situations for this reason, as he has an elite ability to operate at different speeds, utilize smooth hesitation moves, and take what the defense gives him. His passing ability is arguably his best attribute at the moment, as he sees the floor wonderfully at 6-5 and shows incredible creativity and skill for a player his age, constantly probing the defense and whipping balls all over the floor with utmost confidence.
He's extremely unselfish, not afraid to throw the ball ahead in transition to ignite the offense, even if he won't get credited with an assist. He often sees plays developing before they actually materialize in the half-court, and will move the ball calmly and quickly in the flow of the offense, getting his team an easy quick-hitting basket before the defense can react.
Russell's size and length allows him to contribute as a rebounder from the guard position (6.5 rebounds per-40, second best among Top-100 prospects), and also gives him the potential to develop into a better defender in time. He has a very laid-back demeanor on this end of the floor, but his instincts and anticipation skills should allow him to improve here despite the fact that he does not have great lateral quickness. Russell struggled badly early in the season on this end of the floor and likely will do the same in the NBA initially, and it's hard to see him ever developing into a lock-down type down the road.
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While Russell is incredibly smooth, his lack of freakish explosiveness in terms of his pure first step and ability to elevate around the basket could make for an adjustment period in the NBA as he transitions to playing against bigger, longer and more athletic competition. Russell's splits against the best teams Ohio State faced this season (especially his mediocre 43% 2P% against BCS teams at or over .500) reveals how much he struggled at times against defenses that were familiar with his strengths and weaknesses and had a specific game plan for slowing him down. With that said, the lack of alternative scoring options on the Buckeyes roster surely played into that as well.
For that reason, Russell might not project as a player that can carry an NBA offense from day one like some of the worst teams in the league drafting in the top five probably hope. He'll need the right type of players around him, but thankfully he possesses the type of complementary skills (passing, shooting, positional versatility) required to help facilitate that. He'll have to continue to improve his frame and do a better job of taking hits around the basket and finishing through contact, particularly with his off-hand, which he tends to avoid like the plague.
Russell is clearly a special talent who looks hard-wired for success mentally, which should give NBA teams plenty of confidence in his ability to develop into an outstanding player down the road.
A detailed video analysis by Mike Schmitz of the head to head matchup of D'Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson from the NCAA Tournament game between their Ohio State and Arizona teams this past weekend.
Recruiting Rankings: 247: #30, ESPN: #23, Scout: #21, Rivals: #35 Committed to Ohio State
Strengths: -Good physical attributes. Solid height. Good frame. Long arms. Big hands -Incredibly smooth. Has some unexpected explosiveness he can unleash when needed -Talented ball-handler. Operates at different speeds. -Gifted scorer. Not polished, but can throw the ball in the basket in impressive fashion and in a variety of ways -Floaters in the lane. Makes tough shots off the dribble -Good feel for the game. Makes the extra pass. Passes ahead in transition. Can find teammates creatively -Needs to improve ball-handling. -Fills up the stat sheet with points, assists, rebounds and steals -Has the potential to be a good defender if he wants to
Weaknesses -Doesn't know how to use his talent in a consistent fashion. Plays in spurts. Tends to disappear at times -Average ball-handler in the half-court. Rarely gets all the way to the basket. Doesn't get to the free throw line at a very high rate. Getting stronger will help as he doesn't do a great job finishing through contact -Inconsistent outside shooter. Has awkward shooting mechanics like many lefties, but main culprit is his poor shot-selection. Made 28% of his 3-point attempts in 19 Nike EYBL games -Loves to settle for bad shots off the dribble. Takes too many long two-pointers -Needs to improve his catch and shoot jump-shot -Takes plays off on defense
Outlook: Talented lefty scorer who can put points on the board with amazing ease. Shows an extra gear he can get to off the dribble that isn't readily apparent on first glance. Game comes very naturally for him, but goes through prolonged stretches of inefficiency. Will benefit from being pushed by Ohio State's coaching staff.