How D’Angelo Russell Can Take the Next Step as an Offensive Player

Coming into the NBA, D’Angelo Russell was given high expectations as a player, and that is reasonable considering how he was the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. However, before he can emerge as a reliable high-volume scorer, he is going to have to improve his efficiency as a scorer. Russell saw improvement in his volume statistics going from his rookie season to his sophomore year.

Rookie Averages: 28.2 minutes, 13.2 points (41 percent FG, 35.1 percent 3P, 73.7 percent FT), 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 2.5 turnovers.

Sophomore Averages: 28.7 minutes, 15.6 points (40.5 percent FG, 35.2 percent 3P, 78.2 percent FT), 3.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks and 2.8 turnovers.

Change in Averages: +0.5 minutes, +2.4 points (+0.5 percent FG, +0.1 percent 3P, +4.5 percent FT), +0.1 rebounds, +1.5 assists, +0.2 steals, and +0.3 turnovers.

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From an overall efficiency standpoint, D’Angelo Russell was below average (0.853 PPP, 28th percentile) as an offensive player in his rookie year. He didn’t see much improvement considering how he was still below average (0.875 PPP, 29th percentile) in his offensive efficiency. However, his effectiveness climbed when factoring in his possessions with assists, as he generated 1.188 points per possession (58th percentile) last season, compared to 1.105 points per possession (36th percentile) during his rookie season.

P&R Ball Handler

Considering D’Angelo Russell was a pick-and-roll ball handler 39.6 percent of the time and had just average (0.76 PPP, 41st percentile) execution, I would say that it should be a priority for him to improve in this area. When his passes are factored into the equation, his production rises to 0.804 points per possession, but his ranking compared to the rest of the NBA fell to the 28th percentile.

The central area he needs improve the most in is against defensive commitments. In these situations, Russell was below average (0.775 PPP, 19th percentile) on his pass outs, and these plays accounted for a total of 414 possessions. The most significant red flag was that he turned the ball over 26.8 percent of the time. While it would help if his 50 percent adjusted field goal percentage and 7.5 percent frequency of getting to the free throw line improved, a good start would be to cut down on turnovers.

D’Angelo Russell had a decent foundation in single covered pick-and-rolls, as his production was average (0.918 PPP, 48th percentile) last season, and there was a good sample size of 364 possessions. Something that intrigued me was that he only turned the ball over three percent of the time. The next step for him will be to increase his scoring efficiency from a 43.6 percent adjusted field goal percentage. It would also help for him to get to the free throw line more than 8.2 percent of the time too, but that is a good foundation to grow.

If we want to take it a step further, Russell was much better on right side pick-and-rolls than on the left side. For reference, he was good (1.03 PPP, 63rd percentile) in 66 possessions on right side pick-and-rolls while being just below average (0.817 PPP, 21st percentile) in 71 possessions on left side pick-and-rolls. The most significant factor was that his adjusted field goal percentage on the right side was 48.4 percent while being just 39.8 percent on the left side. For reference, the frequency for turnovers was only 4.2 percent, and for free throws seven percent on the left side, while being three percent for turnovers and 7.6 percent for free throw attempts on the right side.