NBA Draft Scouting Report: D’Angelo Russell

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Prospect Strengths:

In a year that featured freshman sensations like Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns to go along with seasoned stars such as Frank Kaminsky, it was going to take a special season from a relatively under-the-radar player like Russell to stand out the way he did. Along the way, Russell demonstrated the type of combo-guard skill-set that is becoming commonplace in the NBA to shoot his way up draft boards and into the top-tier alongside some of the names who were penciled in before the start of the NCAA season.

With how the NBA game is being played in this day and age, primary guards are expected to handle more than just the role of distributor. Though there are still ‘pure’ point guards scattered about amongst the league’s elite, it seems as if the ability to score is just as, if not more important than one’s penchant for getting others involved in the offense. Those select few who have established themselves as the premiere individuals in the league, including the 2014-15 MVP, are the ones who have shown they can do both at a high level.

Russell entered his freshman season with the designation of a shooting guard. When it became apparent that the Buckeyes’ level of success often hinged on the amount of time Russell was involved in the offense, he took over more of a primary ball-handling role for the remainder of his lone collegiate campaign. For a player that, according to, could ‘handle and pass it a bit allowing him to serve as secondary ball-handler’, Russell transitioned smoothly into a role that intensified both of those areas in a big way.

Offensively, there is little not to like about Russell’s game. The scorer’s mentality is evident throughout his expansive repertoire. Almost every scouting report aimed his way notes Russell’s ‘smooth’ game and his advanced basketball IQ as what distinguishes him as a special prospect. Even as a freshman, Russell seemed a step ahead of the opposition in a good portion of his games and managed to bring about the best in his teammates when things were going well for the Buckeyes.

Russell’s jump shot is arguably his most valuable weapon when projecting to the next level. The left-hander’s ability to stretch the defense, whether off the dribble or in catch-and-shoot instances, should help the spacing of whatever team ends up drafting him. In terms of the Sixers, who have poured their resources into their front-court, the ability to give Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid room to operate is essential to their development as individual players and the team’s progression as a potential contender in the East.

Russell shot 41.1% from three-point range at Ohio State (95 makes on 231 attempts) and 44.9% overall from the field. Especially with defenses keying in on him as it became evident that he was Ohio State’s primary scoring option, to put up those types of numbers works in a big way for Russell as he transitions into a league dominated by shooters. Especially in a pick-and-roll intensive offense like many expect the Sixers to trend towards, Russell’s ability to shoot makes him an attractive option in terms of a primary facilitator.

Other areas of Russell’s profile that pundits latch onto are his court vision, creativity, and IQ. For a player that did not handle primary point guard duties prior to his arrival at Ohio State, Russell demonstrated an uncanny knack for running the offense to its maximum efficiency. Though often overshadowed by his dazzling passing and ball-handling ability, Russell’s calmness and ability to adjust may be what NBA people hang their hats on when identifying him as a top-tier pick. Here is a snippet of that sentiment from a DX Scouting Report.

"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."

Though not to the same extent as on the offensive side of the ball, Russell’s anticipation skills and ability to tap into the pulse of the game does hold value on defense. For having played the majority of his season in the bruising Big Ten, for a guard to averaged 5.7 rebounds a game is nothing to scoff at. Especially with his ability to trigger transition, anything that gets the ball in Russell’s hands as soon as possible, including rebounds, is a win for his NBA team. Russell also averaged 1.6 steals per game, good for 6th in the Big Ten.

Russell is long (wingspan of 6’9.75″) and adequate athletically. The fact that he does not rely heavily on an explosive physicality may preserve his career a few more years, for those who want to think in big-picture terms. By no means is his ‘lack’ of high-end athleticism apparent while on the court, but anyone who has watched his game can see that Russell depends more on his ability to manipulate the game in a cerebral manner than simply out-athleting his opponent.

For how much analysts have marveled at his game, it is perhaps Russell’s intangibles that separate him as perhaps the premiere guard option in the class of 2015. His confidence level has already been documented and, for a player that is still a teenager, Russell demonstrates the type of demeanor that should comfort teams drafting towards the top of the draft. In so many instances, a player’s physical tools can mask deficiencies he may have in other areas. While it’s early in his career, that does not seem like a topic of concern for Russell.