Name: D'Angelo Russell
NBA Position: PG/SG
General Information: 19 year old Freshman, played at Ohio State. From Louisville, Kentucky.
Measurables: 6'5", 175 lbs, 6'8.5″ wingspan, 9'1″ standing reach
2013-14 Season Statistics: 19.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, .3 BPG, 2.9 TOPG (33.9 minutes per contest) - 44.9% FG, 75.6% FT, 41.1% 3P, 57.3% TS
Summary: A combo guard with sharp scoring instincts and court awareness, Russell was underhyped going into the season but ended the year as one of the more impressive players in the country. Russell doesn't have highlight hoops, but he is a smooth athlete and has excellent size to play either guard spot. The biggest concern for Russell was his mediocre success against the better NCAA teams he faced, but his well-rounded skills—solid range on his jumper, great passing instincts and above-average basketball IQ—make him an intriguing option for any lottery team.
Offensive Breakdown: Russell plays with great confidence offensively; his 57.3% true shooting percentage is great for a guard, and showed consistent success on spot-ups, pick-and-rolls, and threes (41.1%). Russell also isn't afraid to attack the basket when defenders close out on him too quickly, but he's very limited to his left hand (see the DraftExpress video below for perfect examples) and didn't have great success at the rim.
Russell comes squarely attached with the "combo guard" label, but he's one of the more unselfish "combo guards" in the past few years. His assist rate of 30.1% is better than or equal to the collegiate assist rates of recently drafted players such as Boston's Marcus Smart, Portland's Damian Lillard, Phoenix's Brandon Knight, and the Kings' Ray McCallum. Russell could be a team's primary ball-handler in the right situation; he's got excellent court vision, and has the size to see over most defenders. While it would be best if Russell would end up on a team where he could play on and off the ball, I think people dismiss his point guard potential too quickly.
He's crafty with the ball, and did a strong job with running an Ohio State offense (75.8 PPG, 24th in the county) that lacked many consistent options outside of himself. Russell did play off the ball a decent amount, as teammate Shannon Scott was the team's ‘true' point guard (5.7 APG, 33.6% assist rate). While the combo guard label too often refers to a SG who can't move without the ball, that doesn't fit with Russell, and he helped spread the floor with teams worrying about his 41.1% clip from three. Russell was a tad turnover prone with 2.9 a game (14.9% turnover rate), but he has a wow factor with his handles, and lacking insane burst, he's learned to use them as his primary tool to get open shots.
The biggest concern with Russell is his serious stats drop against strong opponents; In nine total games against Louisville, North Carolina, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Arizona, his stats dipped to 15.1 points on 33.7% shooting. It's key to point out that Ohio State arguably had only two consistent teammates; better opponents could double team him, which he won't face as frequently in the NBA. Still, that is a worrying drop scoring wise, and hints that Russell still has to figure out how to score against top-tier advisories.
Defensive Breakdown: Russell isn't a complete a defensive player. He has the tools to be solid, with his size, wingspan and court awareness, but he didn't work as hard defensively as he did offensively. Again, his lack of quickness is a concern, and that will likely limit him against many NBA guards until he develops the defensive instincts (and strength) to compensate.
Russell took advantage of his size against smaller defenders on the glass, and wasn't afraid to tangle with bigs as well. His 5.7 boards a game and 15.4% defensive rebounding rate are tops for the classes' guards, and are better numbers than small forwards like Wisconsin's Sam Dekker and Kansas' Kelly Oubre.
Intangibles: One of the more common critics of Russell is in his nonexplosive athleticism. Certainly, he was less effective when facing teams that could stick faster or lengthier players against him, and this is one of the bigger reasons why he struggled against the better opponents. When it comes to a smart player like Russell, it's hard for me to believe his lack of burst will be a significant downside in the NBA, especially when he's given time to figure out what he can and can't do.
While I get the James Harden/Russell comparison, it isn't perfect; Harden was never as natural a passer as Russell was in college, and Harden was far better at attacking the basket and creating his shot in traffic. Russell does have Harden's smooth, instinctual style of play (without the insane free throw numbers). I don't think that Russell will ever challenge for a scoring title as Harden has, but that's not a knock on his potential—I believe he'll become a very solid, well rounded player.
Fit with Sacramento: Would the Kings really opt to add a guard with their third straight lottery pick? If Russell is on the board, Sacramento should consider it. The Kings have a much bigger need at the power forward spot, but Russell would add a true scoring threat with capable range, great passing instincts, and a high basketball IQ. Russell wasn't a player who was out to pad his stats, even while on a weak Ohio State team, and the Kings do have a need for unselfish, smart players.
I'll also point back to a fan post back in late April, in which George Karl was talking about what the Kings needed to add this summer -
"I think we need a passer, a playmaking scorer, a guy that doesn't play point, but off the ball is a playmaker."
As Section pointed out in the comments, that sounds remarkably like a definition of Russell, although again I would hesitate to dismiss Russell's ability to play the point spot long-term.
Russell is well-rounded enough that he could fit in alongside any current King guard—he could play off the ball as a primary scorer with Darren Collison, he could run the point alongside Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas, and he could play in small-ball lineups alongside two of those guards with Rudy Gay at the four. He will likely be a defensive liability early in his career, but his excellent breadth of skills would make him a great fit in Sacramento, even if he doesn't represent the Kings biggest need.
Check out the always awesome DraftExpress breakdown on Russell -