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Walker Russell’s D-League performance predicted he’d have NBA success

Like most Pistons fans I’m sure, I really like watching Walker Russell play. He’s really the only guard on the roster who understands what a play-making guard is supposed to do. The Pistons are rebuilding and loaded with expensive guards, so it’s still a longshot that Russell sticks with the team, but he should. Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside pointed out just how solid Russell has been for the Pistons:

It’s possible to go to Hoopdata.com and see that Walker Russell Jr. is now 15th in the NBA in terms of assist rate.

Schroeder also pointed out an article on Russell by Sam Farber of NBA.com that looked at some of Russell’s advanced stats prior to his call-up this season:

Perhaps the most telling statistic for Walker Russell Jr. is one called assist percentage (AST%) which estimates the percentage of his teammates’ made baskets that he assists. Russell’s AST% is a staggering 39.7% — by far the best in the NBA D-League.

Let that number sink in for moment…when Russell is on the floor, he assists TWO out of every FIVE made baskets by the Mad Ants – simply phenomenal …

… when Russell is on the floor for the Mad Ants, they score more points per 100 possessions, shoot at a higher percentage and have better movement (indicated by percentage of made baskets that are assisted). These statistics coupled with Russell’s speed, veteran savvy and astute court vision should make him a valuable contributor for the Detroit Pistons.

Russell like Will Bynum before him has been a great diamond in the rough find for the Pistons. Like Bynum, Russell may not become a full-time starter in the league, but he looks to have a bright future as a competent, rotation point guard who would be a nice addition to virtually any roster.

23 Comments

  • Feb 1, 20121:41 pm
    by neutes

    Reply

    Guys like for reals here, Russell sucks. Dudes are really drooling over a guy that shoots 23% and averages 1 rebound, 6 assists, and 6 points per 36? Every day I come here and read about how Russell is better than our other PG’s and my jaw drops. Are we so desperate for assists that we’re just going to overlook the fact every other part of the dude’s game is shit? I don’t get it. We might as well see what Starbury is up to at this rate.

    • Feb 1, 20121:52 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      The offense looks semi-competent when he’s running it vs. anyone else. He’s unselfish, he passes well and and he plays hard.

      Seriously, I don’t care that he shoots 1-for-4 every game. If he does those other things, that makes him much more watchable than any other guard they are trotting out on the floor right now.

      • Feb 1, 20122:47 pm
        by neutes

        Reply

        I don’t know. He has the worst win shares per 48 on the team. His o-rating is ugly. His turnover rate is higher than Knight’s. He can’t shoot for shit. And his assist rate isn’t even all that great. He doesn’t even try to rebound. I’m not honestly sure what he does, except pass when he doesn’t even have to. Like last night he has a clear path to the basket and decides two steps before he gets there he’s going to pass it to Maxiell, who has a dude all over his back. Sure he got the assist, but really? He couldn’t just take the easy layup? I mean he’s just manufacturing unnecessary assists and people are drooling over it. He can’t do anything else.

        • Feb 1, 20122:55 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Can he make an entry pass into the post? Because if the answer is yes, and I think it is, play him every single second Monroe is on the court. Not a single other player the Pistons put on the floor seem to have this ability.

        • Feb 1, 20125:11 pm
          by Max

          Reply

          How do win shares get distributed when the team doesn’t win?

        • Feb 1, 20129:38 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Walker Russell might induct you into his Kiss My Ass Club for saying he can’t shoot. He looked great vs. NJ.

    • Feb 1, 20124:48 pm
      by vic

      Reply

      this is where you can’t get blinded by stats at the expense of looking at what goes on on the court.

      I’ll take a weak transmission that does its job versus putting a second engine where the transmission is supposed to be. Guards that pass well and initiate the offense make the whole team flow better.

      Guards that can’t execute bounce passes in traffic or convert layups keep the team sputtering.

      • Feb 1, 20127:24 pm
        by frankie d

        Reply

        agreed.  numbers aside, a team needs a guard with the kind of skills that russell has.
        my problem with him is only this: he’s 29 years old and there is nothing that expires quicker in the nba than a nonshooting/pass first guard who relies on his quickness.
        once he loses a half-step, he’s pretty much useless, and russell is probably approaching that point sooner, rather than later.  i just wish joe had found a younger version, someone who might be with the team when the turnaround happens.
        someone like ish smith, who is basically a younger, even faster version of russell, with a bit less experience.
        the other issue is this…joe d has to understand the need for a true point guard.  if he didn’t before, last year’s experience with t-mac should have pounded it into his head.
        yet, he still comes into this season without that type of player and has to go to a d-league player – albeit a good one – in order to get that player.
        why it wasn’t a priority to get a young guy who might be able to fill the role is beyond me.,
        and,  yes, i know joe has this philosophical thing about combo guards, but enough is enough.

        • Feb 1, 20128:34 pm
          by tarsier

          Reply

          What do you think he tried to do in drafting Knight? Sure, Knight may not qualify as a “true” point guard. But he’s a damn sight closer than half the PGs in the league. And he was the best shot at such a young player the Pistons had. Unless you happen to  like Kemba better. But almost everyone agrees taht of the two, Knight has more upside.

          • Feb 1, 20129:24 pm
            by frankie d

            as good as knight will evenutally be, imo, it was also clear that he wasn’t ready to be an nba quality point guard.  which meant that you were going to need a point guard.  and joe didn’t have a point guard.
            as simple as that.
            knight may be an accomplished guard late in year 2 or the 3rd year, but that is about the earliest.
            joe has needed a point guard since the chauncey trade and has never filled the hole.

  • Feb 1, 20122:30 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    The Pistons only have one expensive guard.   Go to Hoopshype, click on salaries and peruse the top 30 salaries in the league.  These are the league’s “expensive” salaries and you won’t find any Pistons but BG is probably in the top 40 or at least 50 and he is expensive.  That said, Rashard Lewis makes about as much as BG, CV and toss in Greg Monroe combined.

    • Feb 1, 20122:49 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      $8 million per year for Stuckey based on what he’s produced this season is too much. $12 million for Gordon is way too much.

      But I meant expensive in that the Pistons have three veteran guards and one rookie guard on guaranteed contracts whereas Russell is on a cheap, non-guaranteed deal.

      • Feb 1, 20123:00 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        I’ve heard a lot of national commentators say the Pistons paid Stuck below market value and he is certainly underpaid based on his PER last year.

      • Feb 1, 20123:09 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        Also, while I won’t argue that Stuck is not a veteran, I still think he deserves to be labeled “young”.

  • Feb 1, 20122:31 pm
    by Mel

    Reply

    I don’t agree with comparing Will Bynum and Russell as being a a great diamond in the rough. Russell has court awareness he just has to settle in. Bynum is too sometime-e  and his court awareness is no better than Stucky’s ( average) If I had to start between the two I would start Russel in front of Bynum. Don’t get me wrong Bynum is cool but he’s one dimensional to me. Teams have figured him out he really doesn’t use his speed on the defensive end the way he could, he could be leading the team in steals. Russell is showing alot and haven’t played with these guys long. His shot will come ( You saw a little of that in the NY game)

    • Feb 1, 20122:51 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      He and Bynum don’t have comparable games, their skillsets are different and honestly, Bynum is a much better player overall. I was simply comparing their situations. Both guys could be backup guards for most teams in the league and both guys spent a long time overseas and in the D-League before they got a shot in the NBA.

      • Feb 1, 20123:02 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        I feel like it’s been so long since we saw the high flying, irrepressible dunking Bynu, but that guy was better than Russell.

  • Feb 1, 20122:38 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    I like Russell and he could be useful to keep around as a mentor for Knight, but “watchability” is very low on my priority list right now.  The Pistons stink and Knight needs to get most of the minutes so he’ll be better next year when they hopefully don’t stink.
    The report regarding the Knicks wanting Russell suggests to me that Joe should trade him there.  I know they don’t even have a second round pick this year, but maybe they’d be willing to part with Harrelson since they are so poor at running the offense.

  • Feb 1, 20123:01 pm
    by inigo montoya

    Reply

    I like Russell, I am pulling for him.  

    (Of course I pull for every Piston player.  I will never say I hate a Piston)

    That said, I had to check some numbers on Russell, because I realize I can suffer from confirmation bias.

    According to 82games, Russell averages 7.0 assists/48 minutes, Stuckey, when playing PG, averages 8.8 assists/48 minutes, Knight 5.3 assists/48 minutes 

    However Russell only averages 3.0 turnovers/48 minutes, Stuckey as PG averages 4.3/ 48 minutes, Knight 4.4/48 minutes.  So Russell has that going for him, which is nice.

    Currently the Pistons backcourt is about playing the opponents backcourt about even, Piston backcourt scoring 37.6 points/game while giving up 37.7 points/game.  Not too bad considering BG’s injuries, Stuckey’s bad start and injuries, and Knight’s recent slump.  

    I am confident Knight will adjust.  As noted in PistonPowered, it is obvious that the word around the league is to play hard defense on Knight and double team him to disrupt his game.  I am confident these tactics will not pay dividends for the other team too much longer.

  • Feb 1, 20123:06 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Interesting numbers.  The front court is a much bigger problem in my view, but unlike a lot of fans, I think the Pistons are just one player away from being good: the trouble is that player is a shot blocking intimidating center that can push Monroe to the 4 size-wise and those players are the hardest to acquire.   Fingers crossed for Ping Pong balls!

  • Feb 1, 20123:24 pm
    by Mel

    Reply

    Russell has a better feel for the game as a point guard than Bynum does. I know there skill set is different but I wouldn’t go so far to say that Bynum is that much better than Russell. Bynum gives you the occasional game here or there but Russell manages the team better to me. Plus he doesn’t turn the ball over like Bynum does. Now if Bynum and Russell could add a couple of inches I would play them together off the bench Russell Point Bynum SG. But thats just my little fantasy (what-ever).

  • Feb 1, 20123:32 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Does anyone know when we will see Bynum again?

  • Feb 1, 20125:17 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Bynum hasn’t been able to put together momentum for a long time though a combination of inconsistent health and role, but there was a time not that long ago when Bynomite had some fans around the country who usually hate on the ‘Stones and I hope he gets a good stretch of health going someday while playing a regular backup role to Knight and some backup shooting guard.
    Didn’t he dish 20 assists one night?   Didn’t see the game.  How did that happen?

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