NBA Position: Lead Guard
|TS%||eFG%||% FG Rim||FG% at Rim||% FG 3pt||3pt FG%||FT%||FTA Per 100||Steal %||TO Ratio||ASS Ratio||USG||PER|
*Stats provided for by synergysports.com, sports-reference.com, draftexpress.com and hoop-math.com
- Elite Size and Length (6’8.5″ Wingspan) for an NBA Lead Guard
- Position Versatility in Pros With Size: Can Play Off the Ball and Defend Wings
- Deadly Shooter: Threat From Anywhere on the Floor at Any Moment With a Quick Release
- Rare Off the Dribble Pull-Up Shooting Ability Stretching Beyond the Three Point Line
- Catch and Shoot Threat Working Off the Ball
- Workable Running Floater in the Lane
- Ability to Post Up Smaller Guards and Convert Via Step-Backs
- Elite Court Sense and Feel For the Game
- Throws Laser Pinpoint Passes in Transition, Around the Perimeter and to Cutters
- Size Allows Him to See Over Defenders to Find Open Teammates
- Can Make Look Away Timing Passes with His High IQ Court Sense
- Clever Ball-Handler Who Uses Craftiness, Change of Pace and Direction as a Lefty to Break Defenses Down
- Assortment of Dribble Moves Including Hesitation and Cross-Over
- Adept Pick and Roll Player Who can Navigate His Way to the Rim
- Deceptive Athlete and Rebounder Due to Size and Length
- Laterally Agile and Can Wall Off Penetrating Guards
- Plays Passing Lanes Well Combining Length and Aggressiveness Without Excessively Gambling
- Ability to Fight Over Picks in Pick and Roll to Contest Shots With Length
- Shows Good Matchup Recognition in Matchup Zone
- Intangibles: A Leader on the Court Who Loves to Compete
Russell has elite measurables in terms of size and length to defend NBA lead guards. He also possesses the versatility because of his size to defend wings, assuming he can add strength to his frame, and can also play off the ball as a wing himself without being dwarfed by taller wing players.
Russell’s second greatest asset is his deadly shooting via a lightning quick release capable of being launched at any time from any scoring position on the court. Russell is a three-level scorer and will likely be the best scorer to enter the draft, possessing an incredibly rare ability to convert pull-up shots off the dribble extending out beyond the three-point line. Only 5 players in the NBA currently take over 3 three-point pull up shots per game: Curry (4.1 at 40.3%); Harden (4 at 37%); Lillard (3.9 at 33%), Williams (3.6 at 28.6%) and Jennings (3.3 at 33.8%). Russell is likely to join that elite company as a pro on the more efficient side, an immensely valuable skill that significantly alters how defenses game plan and scheme.
What makes Russell such a versatile player is he does not need the ball to be effective, and can be a tremendous threat spotting up off the ball in catch and shoot situations spacing the floor, likely from the weakside corner:
|Catch & Shoot HC||Frequency||PPP||Rank||Rating||FG%||aFG%|
When attacking off the dribble, he has developed a respectable running floater near the rim, and also has the ability to post up smaller lead guards in the post and use his size and length to score via step-backs.
Undoubtedly Russell’s greatest attribute is his advanced court sense and feel for the game. His size allows him to survey the court over his often smaller opponent and see things before they happen. Once Russell reads the defense he throws high velocity pinpoint laser passers right into the shooting pocket of cutters or spot up shooters. He shows great patience on the break in waiting for shooters or divers to fill the lanes prior to firing his usual rocket passes. Perhaps the best indicator of Russell’s court sense is his ability to see teammates open before they actually are, look off the defense to manipulate spacing and then use precise timing to hit players for scoring opportunities. Russell has the court sense to see things materialize almost in slow motion before everyone else, giving him the advantage to exploit.
As a ball-handler, Russell utilizes change of pace, direction and an advanced handle to get where he wants to go on the court. He doesn’t have a blazing first step or elite speed, but rather uses craftiness mostly to navigate defenses. Russell has an assortment of advanced dribble moves by way of a deadly cross-over, hesitation move and through the legs and around the back combos to break defenses down off the dribble either in isolation situations or out of pick and roll. Russell is particularly adept in the latter situation, where he shows great comfort coming off the pick and either pulling up if his man goes under the pick or navigating his way into the lane if his man chases over the top of the pick. Pick and roll comfortably is almost a required component for a point guard in today’s pick and roll dominated NBA, and Russell is perhaps the most refined P&R player in the draft (along with Mudiay) as the following chart exemplifies:
|Spot Up||12.6||1.06||77%||Very Good||39.7||53.2||3.6||4.8|
|Off Screen||8.8||.983||66%||Very Good||41.2||51||6.8||8.5|
Defensively, Russell is a deceptively quick athlete, and has the lateral agility to wall off penetrating guards when engaged on the ball. He plays passing lanes well off the ball, and shows a good sense on when to aggressively jump passing lanes without gambling excessively. The primary job of a point guard defensively in the NBA is to fight over and navigate screens, and Russell has the size and length to fight over the top of picks and recover to challenge shots with his long arms. He projects to be at least not a minus pick and roll defensive point guard if he shows consistent effort. Russell has also demonstrated the ability to identify defensive assignments in a fast moving matchup zone setting with quick recognition, and is a plus rebounder at the guard position with his size and length.
In terms of intangibles, Russell looks the part as a vocal floor general who loves to compete. He has an unselfish, team first winning attitude that resonates with teammates. He is also a student of the game and is coachable, which should translate into a plus work ethic to improve aspects of his game, such as getting stronger. There are also no blemishes in how he conducts himself off the court.
- Mostly a Below the Rim Player Despite Being a Deceptively Good Athlete
- Upper and Lower Body Strength, Needs to Add Muscle to Finish Through Contact in the NBA
- Not an Explosive Finisher at the Rim
- Predominately Goes to His Left, Though Has Shown Ability to Go Right Effectively
- Settles Too Often for Midrange Shots Despite Having Space to Penetrate
- Goes for the Flash Play at Times Instead of the Simple One Which Leads to Turnovers
- Getting to the Line
- Loses Focus as an Off Ball Defender and Gets Beat Backdoor
- Lackadaisical Closeouts at Times Which Result in Getting Beat
Russell is not a dynamic run and jump athlete like his main lead guard competition in the draft Emmanuel Mudiay. He gets to his spots on the court with deceptive quickness, cleverness, change of pace, change of direction, and handle, not sheer explosiveness or top-end speed. He is capable of dunking at the rim but is not an above the rim player in traffic, resorting instead to a floater or running layup. Russell definitely needs to add muscle to his frame to better aid him in fighting over screens and permit him to defend wing positions without being posted up, as well as to finish through contact at the rim. He’s currently a good but not great finisher, and projects as such. Russell as a lefty also predominately goes left. He can still get to his spots in college, but pro athletes will likely sit on that hand and force him right. He’s shown an ability to go both ways, but certainly isn’t as accomplished yet going away from his dominant hand.
While it’s mostly grasping for straws trying to find weaknesses in Russell’s game, he does settle too often for midrange shots usually in attempt to step in front of pursuing defenders to draw fouls instead of attacking space off pick and roll to get to the basket. Speaking of free throws, he gets to the line an average of 4.4 times a game per 40 minutes pace adjusted per DraftExpress.Com, slightly below average for his position. He could likely be more active and efficient getting to the line by attacking the basket more instead of settling. Furthermore, Russell consistently goes for splash passes trying to hit the entertainment home run instead of making the simple read and play, which often leads to turnovers. Russell would be an incredibly efficient player if he reeled in these tendencies some.
Defensively, Russell is a plus defender when locked in, but loses focus at times off the ball and gets beat backdoor while ball watching. His metrics reflect his lack of consistent engagement, especially on close-outs and in pick and roll:
He sometimes gets beat on closeouts with a lackadaisical straight up stance and also shows poor technique in his defensive stance not extending his arms out in passing lanes, not utilizing his wingspan to close off passing lanes. Much of Russell’s issues defensively stem from effort and focus, which will improve with NBA coaching, but his motor for lack of a better term does not naturally burn hot on that side of the floor.
Offense: Scheme Versatile, High Pace Transition + Middle Pick and Roll Rub Actions
Russell is likely the most versatile offensive weapon in the draft, and can be employed in virtually any scheme. However, a high pace offense that pushes the ball in transition best captures his talent for creating easy scoring opportunities by transition pull-up threes off early drag screens or finding teammates open before the defense sets up, much the way Stephen Curry is utilized for Golden State. In halfcourt settings, Russell can work both on and off the ball. With the ball, middle pick and roll rub actions suit him best, where he can get into the teeth of the defense and either use his size to finish in the restricted area with a floater or penetrate and kick the ball out to shooters. A lot of NBA defenses now employ conservative pick and roll zoning schemes that facilitate pull up midrange shots, the lowest percentage shot in the game. Russell has the proclivity of making those shots efficiently off the dribble, which schematically changes a defenses approach. Off the ball, Russell can also be positioned in the weakside corner behind the three-point line to generate maximum spacing, as defenders are unlikely to cheat much off of him.
Defense: Scheme Versatile, Conservative or Aggressive
Defensively, Russell is also scheme versatile, which should result in the team that drafts him switching coverages (depending on the skill set of the big men) to keep offenses guessing. Russell can fight over the top of picks in the pick and roll using his size and recover to challenge shots using his length. Russell also has the aforementioned size and length to swarm a pick and roll via a more aggressive blitzing technique. While Russell’s size and lateral agility would ideally be utilized swallowing up smaller point guards, he can also be used as an off-ball defender to chase through off-ball screens. In certain 1/3 or 1/2 pick and rolls, Russell also has the size to switch if he adds more muscle.
Team Fit: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers want to play an entertaining brand of uptempo basketball that has evaded them in recent memory and are currently the most devoid team at the lead guard position at the bottom of the standing. While there is really no schematic angle to discuss here being as though the Lakers are in talent acquisition mode, Russell affords LA with a dynamic lead guard capable of scoring and facilitating, and one who could play alongside Kobe for his likely final year.
Player Comparison: Skinnier James Harden
Finding a comparable player for Russell is difficult, but Harden perhaps captures Russell’s qualities best, albeit Harden was significantly stronger with a bigger frame entering the draft. Both players are lead guards who rely on change of direction, handling and craftiness to navigate their way into the lane. Russell is much further along than Harden was as a shooter, but present day Harden presents a usable illustration of what Russell could become: a dynamic pull-up shooting threat who can break defenses down, find the open man or get to the foul line predominately operating out of middle pick and role sets. Russell has to improve his foul-drawing ability, and he would do well to watch tape on how Harden does so.
Having a lead guard who can shoot, pass and break defenses down to get to the rim in today’s pick and roll heavy NBA is invaluable. I am usually of the thought to lean size in any decision involving comparable bigs vs. smalls, but Russell is really the total package who significantly alters how defenses have to scheme. Defenders can’t go way under the screen against Russell like they do against Elfrid Payton, destroying spacing in middle pick and roll, and defenses have to respect Russell’s ability to penetrate as well, so they can’t overcommit outside. He’s simply a triple threat every time he touches the ball (and a threat without the ball as well) that commands the keen eye of defensive playcallers. Russell is the best shooting and scoring lead guard in the draft, and we’ve seen those types by way of Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and the aforementioned Harden flourish in the league. He has a high floor with his shooting and scoring prowess, and high ceiling if he masters the art of getting into the defense finishing through contract and to the foul line finishing with Harden/Ginobili type precision.