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):
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.
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)
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.
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.
Trae Young Believes He’s NBA Ready
Trae Young has exceeded expectations since his freshman year of college, and he believes he will continue to do so in the NBA
Before the collegiate season started, many believed that the best players in the upcoming NBA draft were going to be bigs. DeAndre Ayton, Mo Bamba, and Michael Porter Jr., all of whom were 6’10’’ or taller, were considered to be among the top prospects coming out of the NCAA, but Trae Young had something to say about that.
Coming out of high school, Young was regarded as one of the better incoming freshmen, but not among the best of the best. Young ranked no. 23 in ESPN’s top 100 in 2017 and was ranked third among point guards, behind Collin Sexton and Jaylen Hands, which led to low expectations for him. Young proved right out of the gate that he was much better than the scouts had rated him.
Young tore up college ball as an Oklahoma Sooner, as he averaged 27.2 points and 8.7 assists while shooting 42 percent from the field including 36 percent from three. While Young’s play made him stand out among his peers, it didn’t translate into much success on the court. The Sooners went 18-14 on the season and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Now that the season is over, Young is shifting his focus to his next stop: the NBA. With the draft coming up in just a little over a month, only one word comes to mind when describing Young’s current mindset: Confidence.
“I bring a lot of things to the next level. I think I would bring an immediate impact off the court as much as I do on the court,” Young said at the NBA combine. “I can space out the defense. I can attack defenders in multiple ways, get my teammates involved. I think I can pretty much do it all for a team and I’m looking forward to whichever team I go to and making a huge impact.”
While Young is not expected to be picked in the top five, he should be picked between the six to ten range. Any player who is selected in that range has to work his absolute hardest to live up to the lengthy expectations that he will certainly face once he enters the NBA. Young luckily sounds like he is up to the task.
“I prepared extremely hard coming into the college season and making a huge impact right away, and I’m working two times as hard this summer preparing to get into the NBA level,” Young said. “I want to make a huge impact right away.”
Young is expected to be a high lottery pick, but he doesn’t care much for where he is selected as much as he cares about going to the team that suits him best.
“My main focus is going to the right team. It’s not about going one, two, three or 30. You see a lot of guys going in the second round in certain years that make big impacts for teams,” Young said. “It’s all about the fit for me. Whether that’s one or whether that’s whatever it is, I’m going to be happy and I’m going to be ready to make an impact.”
Young’s expected high draft position stems from his electrifying play as a scorer in college. Young’s performance for Oklahoma his freshman year was impressive enough to draw comparisons to NBA megastar Stephen Curry. While Young is flattered to be mentioned in the same breath as Curry, he takes pride in being his own player.
“He’s a two-time MVP and a champion. I mean, I love the comparison but I feel like I bring a lot of different things from different players’ games to the table,” Young said. “I’m just trying to be the best version of Trae Young. That’s all that matters to me. I’m just getting started in this thing so hopefully I can achieve some of those things.”
Young’s skillset may remind fans of Curry, but Young prides himself on modeling his game after his favorite player of all time: Steve Nash.
“With his size and my size, we’re pretty similar,” Young said. “He is very cerebral. He can score on all three levels and he knows how to get his teammates involved. He’s a winner so I feel like a lot of his characteristics match with mine.”
Those who have watched Young know of his offensive repertoire, but skeptics have pointed to his defensive shortcomings as a red flag. Young, however, believes his play at the combine will show that he can be a positive on the other side of the ball.
“I’m excited about having the opportunity to show people that I can play defense, and I’m excited to show that from day one,”
When all is said and done, Young may very well wind up being the most prolific scorer to come out of what many believe is a loaded draft, but Young has much bigger ambitions in mind for his career.
“I think I’m the best overall player in this draft, but my main focus isn’t necessarily to be the best player in this draft,” Young said. “My goal is to be the best player in the NBA. That’s what I’m focusing on each and every day.”
NBA Daily: Jaylen Hands Makes Good Showing at the NBA Combine
Jaylen Hands made a good showing at the NBA Combine by displaying his offensive skills and defensive intensity.
UCLA has produced a few of the NBA’s top point guards over the last decade or so, including Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday. Jrue’s younger brother, Aaron Holiday, has declared for this year’s draft and is projected by several NBA insiders to be selected with a first-round pick (likely in the 20-30 range). But Aaron Holiday isn’t the only UCLA point guard who may end up taking his talents to the NBA this offseason. Jaylen Hands, who is still just 19 years old and finished his freshman season, has also entered his name into this year’s draft.
While Hands has entered his name into the draft and participated in the NBA Combine, he has not hired an agent, which preserves his ability to return to college (Hands has until June 11 to make a final decision). Considering Hands’ young age and raw skill set, he isn’t projected by many insiders to hear his name called on draft night. But he certainly helped his cause in the Combine, showcasing his offensive talents, the muscle he has added to his slight frame since the end of his freshman season and aggressiveness on defense.
Basketball Insiders spoke with Hands at the Combine about his development, going through the pre-draft process, competing against familiar faces and more.
“It’s crazy, it’s crazy because when we were younger, they said the exact thing: ‘You guys are going to see each other forever.’” Hands said when asked about competing against many of the same players over the years and now at the Combine. “And you don’t really believe what they’re saying. But now you go through high school, you’re a senior, All-Star activities and you go to the Combine, you see the same people. It’s crazy.”
Hands has a notable skill set but is a raw prospect that many believe would be better served spending another year in college. While Hands needs to continue filling out his frame, he did register decent measurements at the Combine in relation to a top guard prospect – Trae Young of Oklahoma. Hands weighed in at 1.2 lbs heavier than Young, and outmatched Young in height (with and without shoes), standing reach and wingspan. Ironically, Hands has the smallest hands of all players that participated in the Combine. While these measurements don’t mean that he is currently a comparable prospect to Young, they could address some concerns about his current physical profile and how it may ultimately translate to the NBA.
Hands proved himself to be a confident and aggressive player in his freshman season at UCLA – something that he believes has led to misconceptions about his game.
“I’m not a point guard,” Hands said when asked about what misconceptions people have about his game.
I wouldn’t say it’s common, like it’s the main thing. But I’ve heard that I shoot first or something like that. I just feel like I attack a lot. I think I attack a lot and I’m of size to being a [two guard], so I think some people get it misconstrued. I just think I’m attack first, set my teammates up, get what I get.”
Hands is clearly aware of the common perceptions and current shortcomings in his game, which is why he is working hard to improve his overall skill set and is testing the NBA waters to get feedback from teams.
“Before I came here, just being more steady working on my shot, making good reads out of the pick and roll, finishing.” Hands said when asked about what parts of his game he was working on before coming to the Combine.
Hands was asked to clarify what he believes is his best strength at this point. Hands didn’t hesitate and pointed toward his ability to make plays off the dribble.
“My best strength is getting in the paint. So I get in the paint and make plays,” Hands said.
Hands is also clearly aware of UCLA’s history of producing quality point guards and has a chance to one day develop into a quality guard at the NBA level. However, with Holiday heading to the NBA and no major competition for the starting point guard position at UCLA next season, it may benefit Hands to hold off on turning pro for at least another year.
Whether he stays at UCLA or commits to this year’s draft, there’s no doubt that Hands is going to keep pushing to develop into a quality NBA player.
“I want to be the best player I can in the league,” Hands said. “That’s my goal.”
NBA Daily: 2018 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 5/22/18
The final 2018 NBA Draft order is set and Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler offers up his latest 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.
Lots of Draft Movement
With the draft order now set for the 2018 NBA Draft, there is some sense of how the draft might play out.
The buzz coming out of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is that a number of picks could be had in trade include all three of the top selections. Word is the initial asking price is very high and more of an indication to the San Antonio Spurs that if they do want to part with disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard, they are open for business.
It’s also worth noting that there is a growing sense that both the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawk may be far higher on some of the domestic bigs in the draft more so than euro sensation Luka Dončić. Both teams are expected to take a long look at Dončić, so their views on him could change as we get closer to the draft, but for now, Dončić may go lower.
Here is the latest 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft, reflecting the final draft order and the latest buzz, rumors, and intel from in and around the NBA:Dates To Know:
The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.
The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college. However, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.
The 2018 NBA Draft is June 21.
The Pick Swaps:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections. This pick will convey.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the final NBA standings.
The Phoenix Suns were owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick would only convey if the Bucks pick landed between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the final NBA standings did not convey. The Suns will now receive the Bucks 2019 first-round pick assuming it falls between the fourth and 16th pick.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey to Atlanta based on the final NBA standings.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick was lottery protected and would convey based on the final NBA standings.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick was top-five protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick was lottery protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick was top-three protected and based on the final NBA standings would convey
Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects – http://www.basketballinsiders.com/top-100-nba-draft-prospects/
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