D’Angelo Russell Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

POST-FIRST YEAR ASSESSMENT

  • 2,259 minutes
  • -11.8 pace-adjusted plus-minus
  • 13.2 PER

Russell was evidently not provided the best environment to succeed in his first year as a pro. Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour sabotaged much of the Lakers’ season and Byron Scott didn’t organize the team particularly well once the nonsense dialed down a bit midway through the year.

There are also rumors that Russell was a particularly immature 19-year-old. There are no specifics to his childish behavior easily available to find, other than his secretly recording Nick Young talking about how he managed to cheat on his girlfriend and then having that video leak out.

On the court, Russell was OK towards the end of the season. He averaged 19.8 points and 4.4 assists per 40 minutes after the All Star break but did so on 40.1% shooting and against 3.3 turnovers per 40 minutes. Lineups with him on the floor allowed 110.3 points per 100 possessions.

Russell’s top skill at Ohio State was his shot creation out of the pick-and-roll. That hasn’t been as much of a killer in the NBA as first thought, as he averaged just 0.71 point per possession attempting a shot off a ball-screen and turned it over on 20.1% of such possessions last season.

But I think it’s fair to pin the issue of inefficiency on the ecosystem, though. LA’s only true stretch big man on the roster was Ryan Kelly; he logged just 470 minutes, a chunk of them as a wing, and missed 32 of his 37 three-point shots. There were a few times Scott did experiment with Bryant as the tallest wing on the floor in a four-out lineup, but the vast majority of the time the Lakers had two big men near the paint, permitting the defense to clog up driving lanes.

Russell is not blameless either, of course. There were plenty of times where it seemed clear he decided the moment he crossed half-court that he was going to launch a pull-up three-pointer off the high ball-screen no matter what. But that’s something that he can be reasonably expected to grow out of over time, especially because Russell has not shown to be a particularly selfish player in terms of looking off teammates.

He has, in fact, proven himself a very good passer on the move, showcasing nice vision coming off the screen and spotting cutters diving to the lane or weak-side shooters rotating into open spots. If Luke Walton in fact plans on installing a similar offense to the Warriors[1], I don’t think he’ll find a problem having Russell hit all the moving targets.

And, as mentioned by many, Russell also projects to be a good fit as the igniter of that sort of offense. Aside from proving able to make split-second reads on the move, he’s shown he can make pull-ups. Russell doesn’t have lightning speed coming off the screen and has a bit of a set shot but is crafty enough using change of speeds to get wherever he wants on the court and get good enough separation to get his shots off. Russell converted just 35% of his 439 pull-ups in his first year as pro, including just 33.1% from three-point range, but the hope is a more disciplined shot selection under the influence of a more organized system can improve those.

Other concerns raised were interior scoring and defense.

As mentioned previously, Russell didn’t have many clear paths to the basket to score there in bunches but his numbers are nonetheless unimpressive. He shot just 56.3% within five feet, had 15.3% of his such attempts blocked and earned just 3.5 free throws per 40 minutes.

Russell is not a particularly sick athlete but that was already known at around draft time. He can’t attack the basket with much explosiveness but his touch on non-dunk finishes is OK, especially on floaters from the in-between area. Therefore, it’s unclear if that’s a weakness that will end up mattering yet.

But the defense concern identified a year ago has translated into a problem in the pros. Russell has length[2] to crowd passing lanes and overwhelm opposing point guards, who tend to be smaller than him on most nights. But he doesn’t play with much energy trying to navigate over screens and it’s unclear if he has enough lateral quickness to guard these smaller guards, who tend to be much quicker than him, on a nightly basis.

Aside from the fact the Lakers allowed 110.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor last season, opponents averaged 1.13 points per possession in isolation against Russell – the third worst mark in the league among players who guarded at least 50 such possessions.

Despite the fact one full season has come and gone, it’s still unclear if the Lakers are good for Russell or if Russell was a wise investment by the Lakers. That’s because last season was such a circus and essentially worthless[3] that it’s impossible to accurately state one way or the other. Russell has shown some good, has shown some bad and the Lakers are making some changes. It’s a clean slate from now on.

[1] A leap I think we should hold off making.

[2] Six-foot-nine wingspan.

[3] Other than the fact it was good for them to lose a ton and keep their draft pick.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Jeremy Lin Scouting Report

Though he will only count $8.374 million against the Lakers’ cap, Jeremy Lin will actually earn close to $15 million next season. As a result, the pool of teams interested in acquiring him from the Rockets probably wasn’t as big as it should have been. Perception is Lin is nothing close to the player who broke out with the Knicks three years ago; while reality is he was much closer than the underwhelming amount of media hype would have you assume. The context was simply different; Lin didn’t get enough possessions with James Harden and Dwight Howard around last season. But a closer look indicates Lin could be in line for a return to stardom with a Lakers team starved for high end shot creation.

That would have been a near certainty if Mike D’Antoni was still the coach. Lin continues to excel the most out of the pick-and-roll, the bread and butter of D’Antoni’s system. He has good speed off the bounce, both on straight line drives and when forced to change directions. 28.7% of his attempts were at the rim and Lin finished them at a 63.7% clip, with only a third of his two-point field goals assisted. He does not play above the rim but has great balance in the air and touch to score at basket level, even against length as only 45 of his 293 shots in the restricted area were blocked. Lin also possesses great instincts passing out of dribble penetration, with the Rockets averaging over 10 points per game off his assists last season.

His role in Houston required him to be a threat off the ball and Lin took a significant step forward in that area. He posted a 60.8% effective field goal percentage on approximately 177 catch-and-shoot attempts in the regular season, hitting 40.5% of his catch-and-shoots from three-point range. Only 17.5% of his three-point attempts were from the corner but Lin hit them at a 45% clip.

Just like the average NBA player, his efficiency substantially dropped off the bounce, as he hit just 33% of his 184 pull up shots. That was specifically the case when Lin was forced to settle for a jumper out of the pick-and-roll. He also continues to struggle taking care of the ball. His 18.4% turnover rate was very high in the context of him finishing only 20.4% of Houston’s possessions with a shot, shooting foul drawn or turnover in his 2,054 minutes. Lin is a risk taker with his passes and at times tries forcing assists that aren’t there. 114 of his 190 turnovers in the regular season and the playoffs were classified as bad passes.

On the other end, Lin has developed into an underrated defender at this point. He held opponents to just 0.88 points per possession and a 13.3 player efficiency rating per 48 minutes last season. Lin was not the shutdown specialist Patrick Beverley is but proved himself capable of keeping pace with even the elite types of his position, like Tony Parker and Damian Lillard. Opponents averaged just 0.79 points per possession in isolation. At six-foot-three and 200 pounds, he has a size advantage on most point guards and is able to contain dribble penetration through contact.

Lin also displayed the lateral quickness to navigate screens and recover well, ranking in the top 100 in scoring allowed per possession on pick-and-rolls. He was below average playing passing lanes to manufacture turnovers and contributing on the defensive glass among position peers but his individual defense impacted Houston positively. The Rockets allowed 102 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (a rating that would have had them ranked seventh in defensive efficiency) and 104.3 when he hit the bench.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched on basketball-reference, NBA.com/stats/, 82games.com and My Synergy Sports.

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.