Buy or Sell: D’Angelo Russell, Pittsburgh Pirates and Utah Jazz

While Joel Deering, Mickayeen Farner and I were discussing, Joel brought up D’Angelo Russell’s move to the Golden State Warriors, and labeled Russell as the next Steph Curry. Mickayeen immediately disagreed. So the two decided to debate it out here in this week’s Buy or Sell. Along with Russell vs. Curry, we’ll also bring up the Pittsburgh Pirates after they crushed the Chicago Cubs 5-18 and the Utaz Jazz and their Western Conference chances. 

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D’Angelo Russell by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Aman: D’Angelo Russell is capable of being the next Steph Curry?

Mickayeen: I’ll start with the classic Player A/Player B scenario. These are the first four seasons of Steph vs the first four seasons of D’Lo:

Player A (per game): 16.5 points/ 3.7 rebounds/ 5.1 assists
Player B (per game): 19.2 points/ 4.0 rebounds/ 6.1 assists
Seems pretty close on the surface, but when we dig deeper and look at more advanced numbers, we see where the separation really is:

Player A: 35.3 3P%, 49.2 eFG%, 76.2 FT%, 51.9 TS%, 28.2 USG%, 6.6 WS, 4.6 VORP
Player B: 44.6 3P%, 54.8eFG%, 90.1 FT%, 58.6 TS%, 24.2 USG%, 24.7 WS, 11.2 VORP
Explanation of those stats: 3P% is simply three-point percentage; eFG is adjusted for the three-point FG is worth one more point than the two; FT% is free-throw percentage; TS% is a true measure of efficiency, taking into account, two-pointers, three-pointers, and free-throws; USG% is usage percentage, or the estimate of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor; WS is the estimate of number of wins added by the player, similar to WAR in baseball; and VORP is an estimate of points added per 100 possessions.

Player A is D’Angelo Russell and player B is Stephen Curry through their first four years in the league. I mean, it’s not even really that close when you look at it. Steph shot 10% better from three-point land, was more efficient in every single category, and scored more points per game despite having a lower usage rate than D’Lo. The counting stats wills look closer when looking at the per 36 minutes or per 100 possessions because of that higher usage rate, but make no mistake about it, even though D’Lo is a really good player, he is no Steph, and the efficiency numbers and advanced metrics reveal that truth.

Joel: Looking at Mickayeen’s breakdown of D’Angelo Russell against Steph Curry, I can see how one might think to say Russell is the next Curry is ridiculous. However, there are several other stats we can look at that will say otherwise.

In their first four seasons in the league, Russell made 589 three-pointers, while Curry made 644. Curry made 55 more three-point shots than Russell. However, Curry also started more games and played more minutes per game. During their first four seasons, Curry started 28 more games and averaged 5.6 more minutes per game than Russell.

When you do the math, you’ll find that Curry averaged 2.55 three-point shots made per start. Looking at Russell, he averaged 2.63 three-point shots made per start. At that pace, had Russell started as many games as Curry during their first four seasons, he would currently be at 662 three-point shots, 18 more than Curry.

Moving on to their points per game, Steph Curry beat out Russell in points averaged per game during their first four seasons. We could go back to the starts argument here, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll compare how long it took each player to get over 20 points per game. It took both Russell and Curry until their fourth NBA season to average over 20 points per game, Russell averaging 21.1 and Curry 22.9.

Next, we’ll look at their assists. How long did it take each player to average over six assists? It took both of them until their fourth NBA season, with Russell averaging 7.0 and Curry 6.9.

Next, let’s look at the playoffs. Steph Curry didn’t take his team to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. D’Angelo Russell didn’t take his team to the playoffs until his fourth NBA season. What seed were their teams in their first playoff appearance? They were both six seeds.

Finally, I’ll just add that D’Angelo Russell is the youngest player in NBA history to reach 500 three-point shots made. Russell may not have the same shooting percentages as Curry, but there are plenty of other similarities between the two guards.

Mickayeen: The Utah Jazz are favorites to win the Western Conference?

Joel: As it currently stands, I don’t think the Jazz are considered the favorites to win the Western Conference. They’ve made some really nice moves this offseason, which I think definitely makes them contenders to win the Western Conference, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say the favorites.

Looking at the teams in the Western Conference, you’ve got the Nuggets (Should be even better than last season), Warriors (Will still be contenders despite losing Durant and Klay being out), Blazers (Consistently tough), Rockets (Despite drama, should still be there), Lakers (Should be in the playoffs this season), Clippers and several other teams. Among all those teams, I don’t think I’d take the Utah Jazz as favorites. Do they have the pieces to win the Western Conference? I think they do. Are they the favorites? I think at least a few other teams would be favored at this point.

Aman: I was about to buy this, but then the Los Angeles Clippers did two things. First, they signed NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard from Toronto Raptors. Due to that, Paul George signed from Oklahoma City. To be honest, even Leonard alone would’ve pitted the Clippers as favorites for me. And adding onto Joel’s points, the Houston Rockets can be NBA title contenders, forget the Conference. The Trailblazers, Warriors and the Lakers will likely be in the hunt, not to forget the kind of damage the Denver Nuggets can do. Therefore, I sell this.

Joel: The Pittsburgh Pirates will finish with a better record than the Philadelphia Phillies by the end of the season despite the Phillies having Bryce Harper?

Mickayeen: I wish I could buy the Pirates being better than the Phillies by the end of the season, but I just can’t. Even as it stands right now (July 3rd), the Phillies are 3.5 games better, have a +6 run differential while the Pirates have a -39. The Phillies are the more talented team overall and will probably finish 5-10 games better than the pirates. You can never say never in sports, especially baseball, but this doesn’t seem like it’ll finish close.

Aman: In terms of wins and losses, both teams seem similarly consistent this season. The Pirates have just won two fewer games, but the reason I buy the Pirates doing better than the Phillies this season is the away ratio. The Pirates have a batter away record winning 22 games compared to the Phillies’ 20.

 

Now that you have our takes on these intriguing debates, let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

  • Is D’Angelo Russell set to be the next Steph Curry?
  • Are Utah Jazz favorites to win the Western Conference?
  • Will the Pirates beat out the Phillies?
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