NBA

Prodigies: Andre Drummond and D’Angelo Russell

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So far, we have broken down ten of the NBA’s best young players under the age of 25 in the Prodigies Series. In the frontcourt, we have analyzed players like Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid, and Kristaps Porzingis, and in the backcourt, Zach LaVine, Devin Booker, and Andre Wiggins. All players have strengths that they lean on most for success, and weaknesses which, if improved, could sky rocket their games to elite level performance in the league.

This week we break down the games of the Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond and the Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell. Drummond and Russell both exhibit great potential and show signs of growing into the stars that many hope they can be. However, Drummond and Russell also have received ample criticism for their play on the court and their antics off of it.

The reigning NBA rebounding champion, Drummond, is now in his fifth season in the league. Drummond signed a franchise record $127.2 million contract this past summer, but many believe that he has not progressed as a player since inking the deal this past summer. On the other hand, maturity has been the big question for Russell. Now, in his second season with the Lakers, after leaking a teammate’s online scandal during his rookie season and other antics, the 20-year-old has not helped to endear himself to teammates or the Lakers’ personnel. Despite the criticism surrounding both Drummond and Russell, both players have the chance to become great NBA players.

Let’s evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both Drummond and Russell.

(All statistics are courtesy of Synergy Sports and Basketball-Reference.com and are current as of February 8, 2017.)

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons 

14.6 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 53% FG, 44% FT (51 Games):

Strengths:

Rebounding – “Special” is how to describe Drummond’s rebounding ability.  Last season, the Pistons’ big man averaged 14.8 boards per game. This year, his stats are slightly down, with Drummond averaging 13.7 per game, tied for second with the Clipper’s DeAndre Jordan. Drummond is a beast on the offensive glass, leading the league with 201 offensive rebounds, with the next closest guy being the Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside with 173.  Drummond’s 7’5” wingspan, explosiveness, and strength around the basket, combined with his tenacious attitude, enable him to crush it on the offensive glass. Drummond previously told Robert Mahoney of Sports Illustrated: “Every time I see a shot go up, it’s like a pass to me… Guys focus on points and getting assists. My goal is to go out and get 20 rebounds a night.” Drummond understands what he does best and locks-in nightly to do his job.

Pick and Roll Man – Drummond has a strong roller game to the basket out of pick and roll action. He ranks in the 73rd percentile in the league, scoring 112 points on 98 possessions this season. When rolling out of P&Rs from the left side of the floor, Drummond has been deadly, ranking in the 99th percentile in the league in efficiency. He is the second best player in the league, right behind the Celtic’s Kelly Olynk in this category, and often catches pocket passes or lop passes from the Pistons’ Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, and Beno Udrih for finishes.

Transition Scoring Efficiency – When running the break, Drummond is great, as he ranks in the 87th percentile in the league in this category. Drummond does most of his damage in transition by running the middle lane on the break and shoots 81% in these situations. He uses his speed, athleticism, and superb finishing to beat the opposition down the floor and /or finishing over or through them at the rim. Drummond will also look to get a quick easy bucket in secondary transition by sprinting the floor and establishing a deep post position in the middle of floor.

Weaknesses:

Free Throw Shooting – Although his free throw percentage has improved from last season at 36 percent to 44 percent this season, Drummond is still shooting a low percentage at the line, and this inefficiency in his game is probably still his biggest weakness. Drummond’s form is not bad, considering his struggles. He keeps the ball high, his guide hand generally stays out of the way, and he has a solid base when shooting from the stripe. Finding a way to increase his free throw percentage to 65 percent this season would hypothetically boost Drummond’s points per game from 14.6 per game to 17.4 points per game. Considering that his form is not horrible, relatively speaking, this improvement at the foul line is not out of the question.

Isolation – Drummond, by his own admission, relishes the dirty work. However, his one-on-one offensive game lags behind the hardhat portion of his game. This season, he ranks in the 13th percentile in the league in scoring efficiency from ISOs, shooting just 28 percent in these situations. Either from the left, right, or top of the key, Drummond also always looks to drive his way to the basket. Often when this happens, Drummond will end up shooting an off balance, out of control layup, which has very little chance of going in the basket. Improving his poise around the rim when driving it to the basket would really help Drummond’s ISO game.

(Defense) – Pick and Roll Defender (Ball Handler) – The majority of plays that Drummond is involved in at the defensive end of the floor are when he ends up guarding the ball handler out of P&Rs. So far this season, 57 percent of the time Drummond has ended up in this situation and is allowing .97 points per passion, ranking him in the 21st percentile in the league on this play type. Despite his supreme athleticism and agility, Drummond will often get blown by, finding himself out of position as the big guarding the ball handler in P&Rs. This is an area that he needs to improve if he is to elevate his play on the defensive end, especially considering that this play type makes up such a high percentage of his work load on the defensive end.

D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

14.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 39% FG, 76% FT, 34% 3PT (38 Games)

Strengths:

Dribble Hand Off Scoring – Russell has a crafty style of play, and this is never more apparent than with his DHO play. Russell is excellent out of dribble handoffs and ranks in the 87th percentile in the league, averaging 1.14 points per possession. Russell does a great job coming off of the DHO shoulder to shoulder. When his defender chases him over the DHO, Russell squares himself up to the rim, getting his defender on his back and allowing him to turn the corner to the rim. When the defender goes under the DHO, Russell is also effective, stopping behind his teammate for a pull-up. He is shooting 46 percent from the field in these situations.

One-on-one Scoring – Another strength for Russell is with his isolation play. He ranks in the 83rd percentile in the league, averaging 1.039 points per possession, by shooting 41 percent from the field. Out of right side ISOs, Russell is deadly, ranking in the 98th percentile, averaging 1.5 points per possession. From the top of the key, he ranks in the 77th percentile in scoring efficiency. Russell can drive it both ways but has a tendency to want to get to his left, or strong hand, on drives. On drives, Russell ranks in the 98th percentile on ISO drives, ranking as the 5th most efficient player in the league. His herky-jerky stop and go style allows him to constantly keep his defender off balance.

(Defense) – Guarding Pick and Roll Ball Handler – Russell is very good when defending the ball handler out of pick and roll situations. He ranks in the 69th percentile in the league, holding the offense to an average of .77 points per possession. By slithering through screens, Russell uses his length to contest pull-up jump shooters. When guards turn the corner to the basket, Russell does a good job catching back up to ball handler, making it a difficult finish at the rim. Russell ranks in the 96th percentile in the league in defensive efficiency when his offender goes over the screen and drives it to the rim.

Weaknesses:

Maturity/leadership – There is no way of accurately quantifying the effect or lack thereof that Russell’s leadership has on his team. However, the 20-year-old comprised his trust with his teammates and organization last season by leaking teammate Nick Young’s online scandal. Luke Walton told Laker Nation’s Ryan Ward of Russell: “He’s growing up a little bit, maturing a little bit. We all know he’s got talent, it’s about being able to use that talent and play this position at a high level. He’s showing good signs of that.” Russell has both Walton and Magic Johnson to lean on as mentors in LA now. Johnson has stepped up recently as someone for the Lakers guard to lean for guidance. Despite his latest uptick in maturity, Russell still has a long way to go in securing absolute trust and leadership in the Lakers locker room.

Transition Scoring – Russell is shooting just 38 percent from the field in transition. He especially struggles as the ball handler on the break when compared to his peers. Russell ranks in the 12th percentile in the league, averaging just .83 points per possession. As the ball handler in transition, Russell sometimes tries to do too much. He seems to overcompensate for his average athleticism by over dribbling and looking to make the home run play as opposed to the correct play. As the ball handler in transition, 25 percent of the time Russell has turned the ball over. Improving his decision making and poise on the break will help to improve his overall efficiency.

Pick and Roll Decision Making – Russell ranks in the 24th percentile in the league in P&R efficiency. As the passer of P&Rs, Russell has not proven to be effective this season, ranking in the 29th percentile in the league when hitting the roll man, the 27th percentile when hitting the cutter, and the 49th percentile when hitting the spot up jump shooter. When refusing to come off of the pick, Russell has been the least efficient, where he ranks in the 8th percentile in the league averaging .67 points per possession.

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About Jake Rauchbach

Jake Rauchbach

After playing four years of college basketball at Drexel University, Jake Rauchbach coached at the collegiate level, founded The MindRight Pro Program and trained numerous professional and Olympic athletes. Now, Rauchbach writes about the NBA and college basketball for Basketball Insiders and serves as the Player Performance Specialist for Temple University's men's basketball team.

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