Guard – D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers
Let’s get the negative out of the way first. Russell is going to be a bad defender as rookie. It is unavoidable. He simply doesn’t have the athleticism to ever become an elite defender, and since rookie guards are often a disaster on that end of the floor (and he was often flatly bad in college), even run-of-the-mill defensive production seems out of the question.
However, his offense is going to be awesome right away. D’Angelo Russell was unquestionably the best passer in the 2015 NBA Draft, and that is a trait that often translates immediately. His ball-handling and vision are tremendous, and while the Lakers have a lot of issues with their roster, Los Angeles does boast several players who won’t be shy about finishing Russell’s assists.
Perhaps the biggest influence on his All-Rookie candidacy comes in the form of playing time, where the Lakers have absolutely no incentive to play an older (read: worse) veteran in front of him. Los Angeles isn’t going to sniff the playoffs, and if Byron Scott is thinking long-term, the backcourt of Russell and Jordan Clarkson will see a lot of time together.
D’Angelo Russell may not have the upside of Mudiay based on pure athleticism, but his skills are undeniable and they will flash even when operating as a rookie on what will almost certainly be a bad NBA team.