D’Angelo Russell’s rookie season was marred when Russell took a video of Nick Young, as he talked about private relationship details. Assuming Russell has learned his lesson about teammate etiquette, he looks to be a star in the NBA for years to come.
Russell played PG and SG last year and has potential at both positions. The young guard didn’t have an exceptional rookie year, but a lot of that could be blamed on atmosphere.
Former coach Byron Scott seemingly hated Russell, though he claims he was just taking a “tough love approach” with the “entitled” rookie. The former Laker coach said that Russell was not mature enough, didn’t know much of his playbook, and was “lazy” with the ball.
Though Russell had his fair share of turnovers, he averaged 2.5 per game, he’s only 20-years-old. He needs time to adjust to the NBA game.
The Kobe Bryant farewell tour didn’t really help Russell’s development either.
Looking forward, Russell has as much potential as anyone in the league. He has great size and length, 6’5″ with a 6’9.75″ wingspan. The fact that he can play PG or SG really helps his value as well, though I think he could maximize his talent as a floor general.
Here’s how Russell’s per 36 stats looked in his rookie year:
16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 3.1 turnovers
And his advanced stats:
13.2 Player Efficiency Rating, .507 True Shooting %, 15.9 Turnover %, 24.1 Usage %, 0.0 Win Shares
Nothing mind-blowing, but I expect major improvement in 2016 and beyond. The rookie played only 28 minutes per game last year.
Russell wasn’t a great shooter last year, but he never really looked comfortable off the ball in Scott’s offense. There may be growing pains under new coach Luke Walton, but regardless his .351 3P% in 2015-16 should take a major jump. Russell had a .411 3P% in his lone season at OSU.
Here is how Russell’s rookie-year heat map looks:
Russell’s game has drawn comparisons to Magic legend Penny Hardaway. Russell is a far better shooter at this stage of his career than Hardaway was as a rookie. That being said, the eye-test tells me Russell lacks that explosive athleticism that Hardaway had in Orlando.
Russell is already a good passer, has great potential as a shooter, and has the size that team’s desire from the guard positions. He wasn’t a very good defender in 2015 though, he had a 112 defensive rating.
If D’Angelo Russell can improve his effectiveness from beyond the three point line, and become a more active defender, he could be a top-20 player in the NBA in a few years.