Russell and Cauley-Stein have spent their most recent seasons playing in offenses heavily dependent on the pick-and-roll, and can now use their experience to form a devastating two-man game.
The Nets adored the staple of basketball offensive strategy last year, with Russell finishing 11.4 possessions per game as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, the second-highest figure in the NBA.
He formed an impressive partnership with Jarrett Allen, with Russell assisting the second-year center for a solid 1.3 field goals per game. He is capable to make smart reads and find the roller with a variety of passes, skills that the Warriors should profit from:
Cauley-Stein did see quite as much of the ball from this action, since the Kings had multiple wing scorers, such as Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes, who did most of their damage playing off the ball. Additionally, Sacramento had two young bigs in Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles to develop, limiting Cauley-Stein’s playing time.
Nevertheless, his averaging of 3.2 possessions as the roll man ranked in the top 15 for players to feature in at least 55 games last season. With well over a third of his buckets being assisted by point guard De’Aaron Fox, he has earnt the reputation of a dangerous, athletic rim-runner:
Together, Russell and Cauley-Stein could give defenses serious problems. They are each familiar with using the pick-and-roll frequently, indicating that they have much to give to the Warriors.
Russell will benefit from playing with a center in a similar mold to Allen, while Cauley-Stein can thrive by teaming up with a guard that shares Fox’s playmaking qualities. They might even go up a level since Allen and Fox, despite having plenty of potential, were both drafted in 2017 and so are less experienced.
Admittedly, neither player was spectacularly efficient with the play, as Russell ranked in the 67th percentile as the ball handler and Cauley-Stein in the 62nd percentile as the roll man.
Yet equally, neither was on the same team as players of the caliber of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, meaning the Warriors’ new pick-and-roll duo will be able to attack second units regularly. This luxury is something that Russell and Cauley-Stein did not have on their previous teams.