A month ago, D'Angelo Russell was locked into a Top 3 draft slot. His lofty status, however, is starting to fall, amidst reports that Philadelphia, in their undying madness, are giving Latvian beanpole Kristaps Porzingis real consideration, potentially leaving Russell on the board past No. 3. Now, even if he does fall past Philadelphia, common sense dictates he certainly won't fall past New York at No. 4. However, with the rumours of the Pistons and Knicks potentially engaging in a pick swap, the stars might just align for the Pistons to nab the 6'5" Kentucky native.
Russell is projected as a shooting guard immediately at the next level, but with the potential to perhaps evolve into a point guard later down the line. Were this to be the case, he certainly has the physical profile to handle both guard spots. Russell is a legitimate 6'5" in shoes, and commands a monstrous 6'9.75" wingspan. Despite his length, he isn't the most eye-popping athlete in the draft. He had a rather high body-fat percentage at 8.3% (although his voluminous eyebrows explain a bit of that), and, despite not actually being measured for vertical leap at the combine, his game tape indicates more of a fluidity of movement rather than powerful, explosive athleticism. This isn't necessarily the worst thing, as players who don't rely on athleticism tend to age better, as long as they can develop a jumpshot (which Russell has, more on that later).
Style of Play
In a nutshell, Russell WAS the Ohio State Buckeyes last season. He had an eye-popping usage rate of 30.2%, and a PER of 26.2. Russell is an advanced stats marvel. Besides from the impressive numbers already mentioned, he has a true shooting percentage of 57.3%, an effective FG percentage of 54.1%, a free throw rate of .303, an assist percentage of a whopping 30.1%, and a relatively low turnover rate of 14.8%.
Russell has a very good game both inside and out. As evidenced by that free throw rate, he's not afraid to attack the basket, further evidenced by his 4.5 free throw attempts per game, rising to 5.3 per 40 minutes, hitting them at a respectable 75.6%. His main value is obviously on the offensive end, as he averaged 19.3 points per game while shooting 44.9% from the field and 41.1% from three (on 6.6 attempts per game).
However, unlike a lot of main scoring options, he also showed a penchant for getting his teammates involved. As already mentioned, his assist percentage was crazily high at 30.1%, but he also averaged 5 assists per game, with only 2.9 turnovers per game. The numbers say that Russell has the playmaking ability of a point guard but body and shooting ability of a shooting guard, which is why it's baffling to me why Philadelphia is even considering passing on him.
To my slightly overexcited eyes, he projects to be a poor man's version of James Harden at the next level. No...NO, hear me out. They're both left handed, 6'5" guards with supreme ball handling and shotmaking, as well as playmaking tendencies. They both like to get to the free throw line, and they both are the focal points of their teams. If anything, Russell is a better distance shooter, but Harden is more efficient from the line.
Lastly, Russell contributed a monster 4.4 offensive win shares, and 2.4 defensive win shares (for reference, Winslow had 2.5 DWS), showing he can get down and dirty on defense. He also averaged 5.7 rebounds per game and 1.6 steals, making him a very complete player. Just remember, it's not like he was putting up these gaudy numbers in a podunk conference in the middle of nowhere, these numbers are from perhaps the best all-around conference in college basketball, the Big 10.
But to elaborate, any chance of nabbing Russell would involve trading up with the Knicks for the No. 4 pick. Even then, it's not anything close to a certainty, as there is still a good chance that Russell is taken by Philadelphia. Any draft day trade with New York would likely involve some combination of Brandon Jennings, No. 8, and perhaps even a younger piece like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Spencer Dinwiddie. However, if you are given the chance to give up KCP to get Russell, I'd think Van Gundy would at least give it serious consideration. You could make the trade in principle with New York before the draft, but have it contingent on Russell dropping to No. 4. If he goes to Philly, nullify the trade and wait for one of Hezonja or Johnson (or Winslow if he drops) at No. 8. But a backcourt of Russell and Jackson provides endless possibilities for the future, if it were to somehow happen.
Should the Pistons trade up to have a shot at Russell?