The Sixers Should Make an Offer for D’Angelo Russell

October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) directs the offense against the Houston Rockets during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
October 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) directs the offense against the Houston Rockets during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

With Lonzo Ball-to-L.A. rapidly gaining traction as the most likely occurrence on draft night, the Philadelphia 76ers should force their way into trade conversations revolving around D’Angelo Russell.

The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery was kind to the Los Angeles Lakers, as they not only kept their pick, but moved up to the second slot overall. That straps the Philadelphia 76ers behind them at third, while Lonzo Ball’s seemingly predetermined destiny as a Laker seems to be entering it’s early stages.

Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers /

Philadelphia 76ers

That leaves a predicament of sorts, though, for Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and L.A.’s new front office — does drafting Lonzo Ball marginalize D’Angelo Russell’s utility.

While there are several different perspectives to be vouched for — I’m personally on board with trying that two-point guard experiment — recent reports seem to point towards teams attempting to pry Russell from L.A.. If so, the Sixers should be all over the Lakers’ phone lines.

This isn’t just a case of trying to swindle the new and perhaps under-qualified front office in Lakerland, but also a chance for Philadelphia to get some real, franchise-altering talent on the perimeter. With Markelle Fultz out of reach on draft night, Russell gives them some of the same qualities that were praised in regards to the former’s fit in Philly — physical tools, off-ball scoring and dual-threat ability at all three levels.

Fultz obviously has the higher ceiling and more consistent outlook as a prospect, but Russell — despite the narrative surrounding him — has shown plenty of upside at the NBA level. As somebody who just turned 21 earlier this year, Russell’s output, especially at the point guard spot, is promising. He put up 15.6 points per contest while on the floor, hitting threes at a 35.2 percent clip and racking up 4.8 assists per game, to boot.

The knock on Russell thus far has been inconsistency. He has battled a handful of injuries over the course of his first two seasons, while his statistics haven’t quite lived up the hype he generated as one of the better point guard prospects in recent years. Where that criticism tends to get overblown, however, is when people say Russell hasn’t shown anything of value.

First and foremost, the issue of youth does, in part, debunk that. He’s 21, and in a league centered around elite point guards, it takes time to develop into an All-NBA caliber guard. As Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer pointed out, only 12 point guards currently in the NBA have won All-NBA honors — and the average age for when they received it for the first time is 24.

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Russell’s decision making still takes its lumps, while his general feel for the game is still improving. But that’s wholly expected, and jumping on him for not putting together All-Star caliber performances in his first handful of seasons is outright premature.

There have been subtle signs of improvement with Russell, both with his decision making as well as his consistency.  While his 3-point percentage didn’t show any marked increase, he did manage to sustain similar efficiency on 1.5 more attempts per game in comparison to last season. He also averaged just 0.3 more turnovers per game, while showing an increase of 1.5 assists per game.

He was asked to do more with the basketball, and didn’t show any noticeable dips in efficiency. When you consider how much better the Lakers were with him on the court versus off of it, that narrative of “what has he shown?” quickly dissipates.

Joining the Sixers’ system could be what boosts him to the next level of productivity.

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Philadelphia would give Russell more structure than he had during his two-year stint in L.A. He’d have an elite rim protector behind him on the defensive end, while his scoring game would be complimented by another quality playmaker in Ben Simmons. Brett Brown’s system is friendly to multiple initiators and a ton of off-ball movement, the type of system in which Russell could be afforded more open looks than he’s used to seeing.

Russell’s creativity has long been lauded on the offensive end. He has a nice bushel of hesitation moves off the bounce, as well as the finishing ability needed to glide through contact and finish around the rim. What often goes overlooked, though, is his ability to move off the ball and locate his spots offensively, something that draws back to his days at Ohio State.

His craftiness from mid-range makes him difficult to contain in dribble handoffs, while his stroke is clean enough to project viable improvement when given more assisted looks from deep. The Sixers would be able to work in Russell as their go-to scorer on the perimeter, while Brett Brown’s offense would still allow them to feature his court vision, especially in transition — even with Simmons bringing the ball up the court.

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With The Process long calling for a player of Russell’s ilk on the perimeter, his offensive versatility could help close some of their most pressing gaps on the perimeter. He’d be their secondary ball handler, helping shoulder that load alongside Ben Simmons — his high school teammate, I might add — while giving them a consistent multifaceted scoring threat on the exterior.

There are elements of both chemistry and fit that are hard to ignore, all packaged in a young guard whose timeline fits nicely with the current makeup of the Sixers’ roster. Russell could see his defensive problems improve on a team far more apt in that department, with his offensive game being featured in a more efficient, well-rounded fashion as well.

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Assuming the Lakers eventually listen to offers in regards to Russell, the likelihood is that they’ll be selling low. With the Big Baller on the horizon and another talented point guard in Jordan Clarkson already gracing L.A.’s roster, Magic and company don’t have much leverage in sorting out a deal. That gives Philadelphia the chance to, potentially, buy low. Whether that means attempting to sell the Lakers on a Jahlil Okafor-centered package or delving into their bag of future picks is yet to be see, but a deal compatible with Johnson and Pelinka’s desires seems well within reach.

Russell was always supposed to be a Sixer, right? With his price trending down and his fit trending up, it’s difficult to imagine a better time for Bryan Colangelo to buy on the Kentucky native.