Having just turned 19 years old, Estonian wingman Henri Drell has intrigue about him heading into the 2019 NBA Draft.
It’s been a breakthrough year for Drell in Europe. He made his debut with Brose Baskets Bamberg Basket in the G-BBL in Germany having played with their Junior Team last year and their B-Team, Baunach Young Pikes in the German Pro-A for much of this year. He also made two appearances for the senior Estonian National Team in their FIBA World Cup qualifying efforts.
And now, he’s declaring for the NBA Draft.
“My intentions are to put my name in the draft and show NBA teams that I am an NBA player,” Drell said to ESPN. “I hope to achieve my goal of having NBA teams acknowledge that I can play in this league.”
Per RealGM, Drell has played 32 games in total, 29 for the Young Pikes and three for Bamberg, so it would be just more worthwhile mentioning Drell’s stats for the Young Pikes — he’s been more of a bit-player for Bamberg in his three games and they’ll just muddy the water when looking at his stats on the season.
With the Young Pikes, Drell averaged 13 points per game on 39% from the field on 11.5 field goal attempts per game, 29% from three on 4.7 attempts per game, 69% from the free throw line on 3.9 attempts per game, 3.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.9 personal fouls and 2.2 turnovers per game in 28.8 minutes per game.
You look at those stats and you probably won’t be left impressed, and that’s all to do with the percentages more than anything else.
No matter what position you play, sub-40% shooting from the field isn’t good especially given Drell’s volume of attempts per game with 11 attempts. It’s the same story from behind the arc — anything sub-30% is especially poor and on over four attempts per game? That’s tough. Even the free throw shooting, again, you’d like to see at least 70% but when you get underneath 70% that’s leaning into unwanted territory, and, basically, four attempts per game is significant enough.
Disclaimer: Full game film of Drell is very difficult to find given he spent most of his time in the Pro-A in Germany, which you need to for full context as highlights don’t tell you the whole story, but I did find enough to get an eye in of Drell. Not the full picture, but enough to get an eye in (and it seems to line up with others have written too). And Drell wears number zero for Estonia.
Drell’s physical tools are a good place to start.
He stands at 6’9 with a seven foot wingspan, which is certainly a big plus — teams love that, and per ESPN, they are intrigued with Drell. He’s listed as 180 pounds, which is light for 6’9 but it means he’s at least light on his feet.
Offensively, Drell is a bit more competent than, say, Joshua Obiesie, in that Drell has no issues creating for himself off of the dribble, whereas Obiesie is a lot more reliant on screens to get going offensively. In fact, it’s one of Drell’s better aspects on offense from what I saw.
Here, Drell rejects the screen and uses his long strides and burst to skip to the rim for the layup, finishing with the left-hand:
In transition, Drell is able to squeeze through and get to the rim for the bucket:
Drell averages almost four free throws per game and he draws some of these on drives.
From the wing, Drell breaks down the defense and draws the foul on the drive:
On this possession, Drell receives the ball, drives and draws the foul leading to free throws:
Drell appears to be quite a versatile offensive player, scoring in a number of different ways.
Coming from an out of bounds play, Drell darts to the left block, gets ready to post up, recognizes the space, decides to face-up instead and hits the baseline jumper:
On the wing, Drell receives the pass, baits his defender off of his feet, steps inside and hits the mid-range jumper:
His percentages shooting from three aren’t great but he can at least knock some down, including this clutch three vs. Georgia:
Drell appears to be a smooth offensive player — though the percentages aren’t great — but there’s a problem though.
All of this looks promising but what stood out like a very sore thumb is how the ball seemed stuck with Drell, or how often he’d call for the ball in general — once he got the ball, there was a strong chance no one was going to see it again before it went up. This also feeds into another issue in that Drell doesn’t really seem to pass a ton.
Here, once the ball gets to Drell but it will not go elsewhere — despite his teammates calling and in better positions — until there’s basically no time for a teammate to do anything else other than shoot it before the shot clock expires:
Again, there’s a lack of recognition from Drell — the ball should go inside to his teammate with position, it eventually ends up to that player but way too late and the ball ends up back with Drell who mishandles the pass out of bounds:
Drell showed very little desire to pass and get other teammates involved in what I saw of him. Obviously, he averaged over an assist a game, so he obviously does pass, but I just wouldn’t call him willing.
Here was the only assist I saw him dish:
And Drell almost succeeded with another assist after a nice pass out of the pick-and-roll but the shot attempt is prevented by the defense:
It’s better just to move onto the defensive stuff — there’s just nothing to really look at with his playmaking, nothing of volume to make a ton of assumptions when it comes to his playmaking. Though, that last clip would give you perhaps an idea that Drell could use his height and length to his advantage to pass over the defense.
Drell has some intriguing defensive potential about him.
Standing at 6’9 with a seven foot wingspan and light on his feet, Drell has the physical tools to make an impact in the NBA defensively.
The seven-foot wingspan will obviously capture people’s attention, so let’s start there.
As a general rule of thumb, long arms generally lead to decent shot contests and deflected passes. That is on display with this possession when Drell’s length bothers the shooter, helping force a miss:
Late in the game, Drell is guarding the man with the ball and his length deflects the pass, but luckily for Georgia it deflects right to the intended recipient:
But even still, you can see Drell use his length to bother the passer, flashing his length and making it difficult for the passer.
Here, Drell’s length intercepts the pass and he goes the other way and finishes over the defense for the bucket:
His on-ball defensive activity can be pretty good, as he flashes his activity on this possession, really cutting off any avenues inside and forcing a pass:
You’d watch that clip and you’d have a right to be excited about Drell defensively.
He moves decently well too, shepherding the offensive player on the drive and forces the pass:
Off-ball, Drell has a few lapses, straying a little too far from the shooter on this possession, leading to an open three-point attempt:
And again, only it ends in a made three this time:
Film is limited of Drell but there’s enough here to take a gamble on. There are some shades of Rodions Kurucs here pre-draft — if he’s selected in the second round, he could easily end up making more of an impact in his rookie season than expected, but landing with the right team would obviously be huge in that regard.
Offensively, he’s smooth and seems diverse. His percentages aren’t great but I don’t think they’ll deter too many teams from him. The lack of passing and playmaking is an issue. Again, not to say he can’t pass but the lack of willingness is a problem.
Defensively is where things get interesting, in addition to his offense. His on-ball defense is solid and with his size, movement and wingspan, there’s something really intriguing there defensively for Drell. Off-ball, there’s ups and downs but overall there’s enough for teams to be really interested in Drell defensively.
Overall, Drell is really interesting. He has potential to make plays on both sides of the ball, and having just turned 19 years old there’s some real upside.
“I would like to show teams that I can shoot, penetrate past my defender and make the right play,” said Drell to ESPN. “I am more athletic than they may know and I have a very good understanding of the game. Mainly I want them to see my passion for the sport. I love to play basketball. I don’t think many players have my work ethic. To me it is not really “work” because I love the game so much. What teams will also see in me is a player that will strive to continually improve. I have a lot to learn and I’ll always work harder than anyone else to improve my game.”
ESPN projects Drell in the top 60 — No. 55 overall — for this year’s draft and project him to be a first round pick for the 2020 draft. Drell has declared for this year’s draft and would look to be the first Estonian drafted into the NBA since Martin Müürsepp was drafted in 1996 by the Utah Jazz, something Drell would be very proud of.
“I am proud of my Estonian heritage and I do my best to represent my country with honor every time I step on a basketball court,” Drell told ESPN. “This would be an important moment for Estonian basketball and it would make me so incredibly proud to be part of it.”