D’Angelo Russell: The 1st Overall Pick in the Draft?

On June 25th, 2015, the first name commissioner Adam Silver should announce is Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell. Russell is currently a top five pick in the many mock drafts floating around the internet, with most have him being the third or fourth selection before the draft lottery slots teams in mid May. 

(Update: The Minnesota Timberwolves won the Draft lottery and will select first followed by the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic at number five.)

I know it defies conventional wisdom to draft Russell over big men Jalil Okafor of Duke and Karl Anthony-Towns from Kentucky, but this isn’t the 1980s when dominant bigs controlled the balance of power in the NBA.

We are in the era of the playmaking guard. It’s like quarterback in the NFL, if you don’t have one, you’re probably not a good team. 

Russell is a 6’5″ guard in the mold of Houston Rockets MVP candidate James Harden; not simply because they’re both smooth lefties, but because they can efficiently get buckets for themselves and their teammates seemingly at ease. Russell also has superior court vision and passing ability that has many NBA executives and Analysts comparing him to future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd.

Russell averages 18.7 ppg while shooting 46 percent from two, 43 percent from three. He’s a stat sheet stuffer grabbing 5.7 rebounds and dishing out 5.4 assist in 33 minutes of play. He already has a triple double to his credit and had been close in a handful of other games. 

New York Knicks President Phil Jackson had a front row seat to Russell’s exploits Thursday night in Columbus. While Russell left the game with an injury, he showed flashes of what has helped him earn Big Ten freshman of the week six times and Player of the week twice and a spot on the Wooden Award list, the basketball version of the Heisman trophy. 

If you’re one of the teams with the best chances at landing the number one pick (Knicks, Lakers, Sixers) what good is it to have a big in Okafor or Towns if you don’t have any one to get him the ball? 

(UPDATE: Even with Ricky Rubio on the roster the T-Wolves should still consider drafting Russell. Rubio has been often injured—he has only played a full season in his career once—and when he has played he’s been very inconsistent. If Rubio were still to flourish, he along with Russell and Wiggins could provide the T-Wolves with a formidable trio.)

You need Russell to play against Westbrook, CP3, Harden, Wall, Lilliard, Parker, Irving, Teague and the list goes on. If you want to turn around your teams fortunes, Russell is a great start. That is assuming he enters the draft. (UPDATE: Russell declared for the draft in late April foregoing his final three years of NCAA eligibility.)

 

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