With the NBA draft less than a month away, we're taking a look at how potential lottery picks fit with the New York Knicks. Point guard D’Angelo Russell is one player who may be on the board for New York, which has the fourth pick.
Below is a look at how Russell could impact the Knicks:
Russell might very well be off the board when the Knicks pick, but if he is still available, the Ohio State point guard could be more than a consolation prize for New York after not landing in the top three in the lottery.
Russell offers nice size at 6-foot-5 with a wingspan of 6-foot-10. The left-handed shooter is a smooth scorer who has terrific court vision. His passing is impressive, particularly in transition. Russell would be a shot in the arm for the talent-starved Knicks.
“One of the best players in the draft, to tell you the truth,” said Ryan Blake, senior scouting consultant for the NBA. “You don’t have a guard at that size who can come around that much, who can be a possible Deron Williams or Jason Kidd.”
Russell lacks superior athleticism and there were times when he didn’t completely take over games despite often being the best player on the floor in college. Russell also struggled in his final game, missing 16 of 19 shots and finishing with nine points, six assists and seven rebounds in a third-round loss to Arizona in the NCAA tournament.
“He doesn’t have that elite athleticism in terms of speed and hops,” Blake said. “However, what he has in terms of making him an elite athlete is that brain, that IQ. The way he sees angles, the way he leads his team, you don’t see that very often at that size.
“Great passing out of the pick-and-roll. He sees plays in advance.”
How does he fit in the triangle?
Phil Jackson enjoyed great success with tall wingmen like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and the likes of Ron Harper. These players could handle the ball, and score on the wing or out of the post.
They could see above defenders when passing in the triangle and post up smaller opponents as well.
In Russell’s case, the more the ball is in his hands, the better off his team should be. But in the triangle, Russell might not have the ball in his hands as much as he would in another system.
“In order for him to be successful as people think he can be, you have to give him the keys to the car,” said MSG Network analyst Wally Szczerbiak, who also is a college basketball analyst for CBS Sports Network.
“You have to say, here you go, it’s your team. You have the freedom to have five, six, seven turnovers. He’s got to have that type of green light.”
“But I think his strength is in pick-and-roll and having the ball in his hands,” Szczerbiak added. “Sometimes in the triangle, the ball is moving around and you’re playing off of your teammates, but his strength is him making his teammates better, so to speak.”
How will he fit with Melo?
While Russell is better with the ball in his hands, he could be a good complement for Carmelo Anthony. When Anthony has the ball, Russell can be a second scorer and playmaker. He averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists during his freshman year at Ohio State.
“I think he would fit in great and he would be a good complement to Carmelo because they play different positions,” Szczerbiak said. “But if you run a set for him, Carmelo turns into a guy who is kind of spacing the floor.
“His game is kind of opposite of Carmelo. He creates off the dribble whereas Carmelo is kind of a post-up, face-up, one dribble pull-up type guy offensively. Where Russell is more of a pick-and-roll where he creates offense for himself and his teammates.”
Russell also should be able to facilitate some easier baskets for Melo.
“He’s the best passer I’ve seen in five to 10 years coming into the league,” said Fran Fraschilla, ESPN NBA Draft Insider. “His vision is [Ricky] Rubio-esque or Steph [Curry]-esque. He sees plays before they develop. He throws passes to teammates who don’t even realize they’re open.
“The more the ball is in his hands, the better it is for his team because he’s going to make good decisions.”
What will he bring on defense?
Jackson also enjoyed success on defense with long defenders like Pippen, Jordan, Bryant and Harper. Their length and height could be disruptive, leading to offensive opportunities on the other end.
“[Russell] was so protected [on defense] because Ohio State went zone for part of the season, but he has all the tools to be a good defender,” Szczerbiak said. “He just has to work at it. I think in college, he just wanted to be on the floor. I don’t think he was asked to defend at a high level.”
Russell averaged 1.6 steals per game but will have to deal with faster and bigger guards in the NBA.
“I don’t think he’s going to have trouble defensively,” Fraschilla said. “Even against quick guys, he’s got good length so he’s going to be able to space off a little bit.”
“Strength is going to be a little bit of an issue with him early,” Fraschilla added. “But we heard the same things about the MVP of the league [Stephen Curry] this year.”