Sure, the draft lacks the drama and suspense that we crave from our sporting events, but in this time of year the selection of amateur athlete’s is about as good as it gets. Plus, for the first time in since 2013 Ohio State fans have a reason to pay attention when teams start making selections in Brooklyn at 7 p.m. tomorrow night.
Granted, they won’t have to pay attention all that long as former Buckeye star D’Angelo Russell will certainly be one of the first five players selected and could go as high as No. 2. The most likely scenario seems to have Russell landing in Philadelphia as Scout.com., DraftExpress, Bleacher Report and NBA.com all have the 76ers selecting the Buckeye guard with the third pick in the draft.
At 6-5, Russell has great size for a point guard and as a Buckeye he showcased that he is versatile enough to play either guard spot effectively. His scoring ability and passing instincts are well known strengths and while there have been questions about his ability to defend at the next level, Russell has good lateral quickness and the nearly 6-10 wingspan he measured at the combine suggest he has the physical tools to be effective at that end.
He has been working on his game in Los Angeles for around a month now in preparation for the draft.
“Just being crispy with consistency on the jump shot, keeping my handle tight,” Russell told DraftExpress.com when asked what he has been working on. “A lot of conditioning, a lot of competitiveness. We’ve got some of the top guys out here.”
Despite all of the positives that Russell brings to the table he won’t be going No. 1. Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns seems to be a lock for the Timberwolves and the first overall pick. Things get interesting with the Lakers at the next spot, the first true chance for Russell to come off the board. At worst it seems unlikely that he will fall farther than fourth which would make him the highest Buckeye selection since Evan Turner went second overall in the 2011 draft. With that in mind let’s see how he fits in with the three teams most likely to garner his services next season.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Purple and Gold are in need of help in the backcourt especially now that Kobe Bryant has declared the 2015-16 season will be his last in the NBA. Regardless of the fact that the Lakers have a combined 48-116 record over the past two seasons, Los Angeles still has an allure for aspiring NBA stars. It’s no different with Russell who has worked out with the Lakers twice and has made his desire to play there known.
"If I were to go to the Lakers, I wouldn't want anybody to hand me anything," Russell told Yahoo Sports. "I wouldn't expect Kobe to take me under his wing. I think he will want to see a resemblance of that hunger and fire that he came into the league with as a young kid. No one needs to be nicest guy in the world, or needs to pretend to be that. He will see through that, pick all that apart.
"I've got to be me."
The Lakers have certainly hinted that Russell could be their man and he would factor into the backcourt rotation immediately, get a chance to learn from Bryant (or earn the right to do so) and develop alongside 2014 lottery pick Julius Randle.
Still, there is a reason that nearly every mock draft has Duke center Jahlil Okafor going second. Even though the league is trending towards more of a pace and space style that minimizes the value of a traditional center, Okafor is a rare talent. He is offensively developed enough to put up 20 and 10 from day one. Those guys are a lot harder to find than point guards, even ones as good as Russell.
And we are back at Russell’s most likely landing spot. Granted, predicting the behavior of Philadelphia’s front office is a dangerous game, but it seems as if the fit here is too good to pass up. The 76ers have been trotting out a roster barely resembling an NBA team, but that could be beginning to change – finally.
Philadelphia has a defensive presence with Nerlens Noel at power forward and another former first-round pick in Joel Embiid set to play center going forward, even if he suffered a setback in his recovery from a foot injury. The backcourt and wings for the 76ers, however, are barren and Russell would immediately be the best creator and passer on the roster.
DraftExpress.com aggregated mock drafts from 12 different organizations and Russell has been projected to go to the 76ers in eight of them (three had him going fourth and one had him going second).
New York Knicks
At the four-spot we get another front office that has proven to be unpredictable, but it seems that if Russell is still on the board when the Knicks are on the clock New York will call his name.
Russell has long had the interest of the New York front office as team president Phil Jackson attended a March 3 game against Purdue to see the Buckeye guard up close.
“He’s a great-looking kid,” Jackson, who was fined for his comments, said of Russell. “Great prospect.”
The Knicks desperately need playmakers alongside Carmelo Anthony and Russell fits the bill. How would he fit in New York’s triangle offense? Well, Russell is confident he could work in that style and it seems likely that a player with his basketball intelligence and passing ability would find a way to make the triangle work.
“Now that I look at it, Kobe had great success in it. The shots that he took, the shots that he made were in the same areas, all from the offense. So I think I can definitely thrive there,” Russell told ESPN’s Ian Begley.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, he likely won’t still be available.
Any Other Buckeyes?
Russell will be off the board quickly Thursday night, but will any other Buckeyes hear their name called? Probably not and if they do there will be a much longer wait.
Sam Thompson is the No. 81 prospect in the draft according to DraftExpress and is the No. 18 small forward. The 6-7 forward has worked out for the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz.
Classmate Shannon Scott is the No. 86 overall prospect and No. 20 point guard in the draft. Scott has worked out with the Indiana Pacers, the Charlotte Hornets, the Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and his hometown Atlanta Hawks in preparation for the Draft.
The draft has only 60 selections so while both still harbor NBA dreams it seems more likely they will have to find a roster spot as undrafted free agents.