D’Angelo Russell made his return from a bruised glute in Thursday’s win over Maccabi Haifa and promptly put on a passing clinic. He dropped 11 dimes, several of them of the “whoa, nice look” variety which get fans out of their seats and teammates anxious to start cutting harder and working to come off screens better.
It wasn’t just that Russell was racking up the assists, though. It was what kind of assists they were. Or, more specifically, that his assists led to the exact types of baskets every offense wants.
Of D'Angelo Russell's 11 assists, 5 were for 3 pointers, 4 were for dunks. 4 of Ryan Kelly's 5 made shots were assisted by Russell.
— Contrarian Barbarian (@basquiatball) October 12, 2015
The backbone of the efficiency/analytics approach to offense is that the goal of every possession is to get one of three types of shots: a dunk/layup, a three point shot, or a trip to the foul line. It has been proven that these shots produce the highest level of points per possession which, simply put, is what every team wants. After all, the goal is to still score more points than your opponent.
Look at the above tweet again. Nine of Russell’s 11 assists led to the exact type of shots efficiency hounds crave. Further, while Russell didn’t score much (he only took two shots — making them both), the points he did score followed this same trend as he got a layup off a sweet Kobe pass and hit a pull up three pointer when his man sagged off him.
This isn’t new, either. Russell’s only played extended minutes in one other game this preseason, but that contest saw two of his three assists go for a dunk (Randle) and a layup (Clarkson) while his two baskets were a 3-pointer and a layup. If we’re scoring at home, then, of Russell’s 14 assists this preseason 11 have been for either a 3-pointer or dunks/layups while all four of his baskets are either layups or three pointers.
Perceptions are hard to break. As long as Byron Scott coaches the Lakers, regardless of how much his on the record comments start to shift, the team will be looked at through the lens of not adapting to the times of the “modern” NBA where efficiency is king. Fair or unfair, fans and analysts alike will get their jabs in because, well, this is what we do. Welcome to the internet.
But if there is a shift in how the team is viewed, it will come from how the players play and what types of shots they are taking/producing within the offense. It’s a small sample, but Russell is doing his part to change the narrative.
Craig W. says
Nice observation Darius.
Systems don’t win games, but they do provide players with a template, within which other player’s actions can be more easily predicted. Perhaps that is one reason why Byron Scott has had such success with PGs.
Go Russell, Go Lakers!
Jim C. says
Very nice observations in this particular story. The Lakers aren’t going to be a great team this year. (Probably not even a good team.) But if they show themselves to be a PROMISING team with a lot of young talent on a significant upward curve that has a high upside potential, then they’re going to be a promising destination for top free agents going forward.
And, perhaps just as importantly, they’re going to be a lot of fun to watch. That’s something that we haven’t necessarily been able to say over the last two joyless years rooting for the tank.
Side point : I remember about 3 years ago Baron Davis had the highest assist quality in the league. Blew away my expectation, because everything else about his game was all about inefficiency and wasted talent. Sorry for the digression.
Moses Buhay says
I bought 2 tickets (section 101; row 2!!!) for the Jan. 22nd game at Staples against San Antonio. I’m taking my dad and it’s our first time going to Staples. We live in the East Bay and always catch the Lakers in Oakland or Sacramento. I need some advice on where to stay. We are middle class folk but want to stay somewhere close to where we’d hang out Friday and then go to the game on Saturday. I hear Staples isn’t in the best area. Any advice is appreciated.
Nice piece Darius. It would be nice to read more pieces like this on the individual rooks evaluating their development as they get minutes. Thanks for this.
Having a guy with Russell’s instincts will, if nothing else, make the team more enjoyable to watch.
Baylor Fan says
Russell may also end up extending Kobe’s career. If Kobe is willing to take on the Ray Allen role as the designated catch and shoot gunner and give up the iso’s and one on two dunks, he might revitalize his game. It would also allow him to expend more energy on the defensive end. He could still get his 20 points and his shot creating ability would still draw the occasional double team.
J C says
Baylor fan –
if Russell grows into the PG we see his potential to be,
Kobe could get a new lease on life.
Think Kareem when Magic entered the scene.
@Moses If you can make your way around Oakland and Sacramento without getting robbed and murdered then you can make your way around Staples.
As an LA native I recommend getting a hotel somewhere along the Red Line, maybe even out in North Hollywood. One reason people hate this town is because they experience it by car. Our public transport in general isn’t super friendly to novices, but the red line is a great beginner mode.
Just to think he’s only going to get better is scary. 19yrs old, playing like a true vet. I hate to make such a early prediction but hey, to say he’ll be an allstar one day would be light jab..
Do those 5 three pointers assist always come in a ball game? Hardly, especially with the Lakers, sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. Well, analytics is the modern day of measurement of efficiency which was in existence during the time of Magic or Bill Russell’s rebounds and blocks or Kareem’s hook shots and double digit consecutive scoring. There is no fancy description from Chicky baby but just called it as it is.
Well, D’Angelo is a good passer for that matter a great one in the making. It is not because what his analytics are but what he is mastered to excel. Kobe, Lebron, D’wade have all around games may it be defense, offense and a winner too, not because of their analytics but their athleticism which acquired during the formative years.
I’m not being anti-analytic per se but just don’t make a big fuss of it as if it is the alpha-omega of becoming a good player. Like leaders, there are players who are gifted from the start and others who developed along the way. Tell me, how can analytics help Sacre?
Larry ! Larry! Larry !
J C says
Analytics can help Sacre in his next career as a computer software guy.
Mackson’s ‘Larry!’ chant reminded me of what I was already thinking.
Neither Larry nor Magic’s athleticism is what made them among the greatest ever to lace ’em up.
In Russell’s case, he does have extra length for a PG and a knack for rebounding as well.
My enthusiasm for this kid is very high.
And as many here have pointed out, even if we lose a bunch of games this year, it will be in a far more entertaining way.
Additionally, Free Agents will start to see LA as a bit more attractive once Russell’s passing skills become widely known and seen throughout the league. Who doesn’t wanna play with a PG that will gladly make the unselfish play? Not to knock Westbrook, but I’d rather play with a guy like D’Angelo.
It’s in this area that Russell’s value may exceed Okafor’s in the long run.
And that’s where the genius of Kupchak and possibly even Buss may reveal itself again.
It just may take a year or two. Right on schedule for Jimmy’s timeline.
Craig W. says
I guess I just don’t see all the emphasis on free-agent signings. The Lakers have never done a lot in this area (Shaq being the exception) and I see development and trades as being a far more likely path to becoming a contender again. It would seem free-agent signings is the be-all and end-all of our development objective. We are developing our players so that we can contend – and perhaps facilitate a trade along the way. If we also sign a free-agent, I look at this as icing on the cake.
In any case, I suspect Russell and Randle are the only two untouchables on the trade side, with Clarkson having to bring a really good haul to get from us. Randle, while technically still a rookie, has a year of exposure to the NBA lifestyle and requirements under his belt and this should only help his development. Russell has people surrounding him that allow him to offload some of the responsibility – this should speed his development.
lil pau says
the area around Staples is fine. If you want to stay near the arena, the Hotel Figueroa is worn, but inexpensive with a nice pool/bar area. If you want to spend more, there are plenty of fancier options within a few minutes walk. The Ace hotel is not very expensive and wildly hip in a quintessentially amusing/cliche LA way, especially the DJs spinning poolside.
That said, if you’re going to rent a car, and hotel price matters, I’d personally opt for a less expensive hotel near the ocean rather than downtown. Better to climb out of potentially threadbare sheets and walk on the sand…. then again, you’ll have to allow for a slow drive across town….
Tripadvisor.com is your friend.
Here’s a more nuanced article on the Lakers. (And look some anonymous FO sources say good things about us too! Who’d a thunk it?)
Darius this is a great write up! Thank you for running this forum the way you do.
chris hederson says
I concur, the Hotel Figueroa is a very cool hotel – and walking distance – easily.
I heard it’s bing torn down, which is a real shame, the place is a classic.
Check out the following web site: http://www.tripadvisor.com/HotelsList-Los_Angeles-Cheap-Hotels-zfp10300.html
I recommend the Hotel Hollywood. As I recall, it’s on Western Avenue not far from Sunset. That means that you would be close to the 101 which would take you straight into downtown. I hope this helps.
Parrothead Phil says
I concur with the recommendations for the Hotel Figueroa. You’ll be walking distance from Staples and LA Live. Also, for a surprisingly affordable hotel along the red line only a couple stops from Staples, try the Biltmore. It’s an historic classic within walking distance of Grand Central Market, another classic place to eat that is also now undergoing a trendy re-vitalization.