The rush to find a player to compare D’Angelo Russell to began in the lead-up to the 2015 NBA Draft. Russell himself said he saw similarities in his style and Stephen Curry’s. Others have compared him to James Harden.
According to Russell himself, however, it wasn’t Harden, but rather a different lefty who plays in Texas he tried to mimic while growing up.
"See, it's different when you ask who your favorite player was. You can say those American guys who made their name, like Kobe and Allen Iverson and Shaq and all those types of guys," D’Angelo Russell told Baxter Holmes of ESPN. "But I really look at it and say, if I could model my game after somebody [it would be Ginobili]."
From the way Russell shifts speeds or the way he often attempts to slither to the basket or throw crazy passes few players would think to attempt, the aesthetic comparison is an easy one to see. A comparison Lakers fans might enjoy even more is the numbers of the two players during their sophomore seasons (even if Russell is only 12 games into his second year):
Now it’s important to note that Russell used over 6 percent more possessions while on the floor during those seasons. However, Ginobili did have the advantage of being 26 years old (six years older than Russell) and having played professional basketball for years before entering the NBA, so Russell’s higher shooting efficiency is encouraging even if he turns the ball over even more than the notoriously wild Ginobili.
Numbers aside, Ginobili has had a great career for the San Antonio Spurs and could have received more acclaim starting on other teams. Ginobili morphed himself into a pick-and-roll wizard during his career, a foul-drawing dynamo who slaughtered opposing benches and starters alike. Comparing Russell to him is a compliment, not an admonishment.
Plus, if Russell continues to attempt to play a similar style to Ginobili, Lakers and NBA fans alike should be excited to witness the hypothetical of what a more shot-happy Ginobili could have accomplished as a starter before our very eyes.
Holmes’ full feature on Russell is absolutely worth your time. All stats per Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.