Following a 15 point loss to the 2nd seeded Arizona Wildcats, a game in which he shot 3 of 19 from the field, D'Angelo Russell wanted no part of reporters' questions about his pending decision to declare for the 2015 NBA Draft. With the defeat still fresh in his mind, the Ohio State freshman point guard refused to comment on the issue multiple times. With most mock drafts projecting him as a top 3 pick, and three other Ohio State starters graduating in Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, and Shannon Scott, it is hard to believe Russell would hang around for another season that could end up pretty similar to this one.
Russell's Strengths and Weaknesses
Listed at 6'5'', D'Angelo Russell has great size for a point guard, but also has the versatility to play off the ball. Russell, a left-hander, has an uncanny ability to fit passes in to tight windows and draw the defense to him so he can create for his teammates. If given any space, however, Russell will not hesitate to shoot. He shot over 41% from deep this year and averaged 19.3 points per game to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 5 assists. While most freshman who declare for the NBA Draft are raw talent wise, but have unbelievable athleticism, Russell is almost the opposite. While he is not slow or non-athletic by any means, Russell never wows you with his athleticism as some modern day point guards like Russell Westbrook or John Wall might. Russell is a point guard who relies considerably more on his ball handling, passing and shooting skills to beat you. He will have to improve his defensive quickness against quicker NBA guards and find new ways to beat better defensive guards off the dribble, but the skill set that Russell will bring in to the NBA is undoubtedly one of the best we've seen from a guard in a while.
When comparing Russell's college career to current top NBA point guards who left college after their freshman season, it is easy to see why Russell is being projected as a top 3 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Derrick Rose each left college after just one season and, while each has had their respective difficulties staying healthy and making the playoffs, they all have multiple All-Star appearances on their resumes. Russell averaged the most points per game out of the four players while shooting the second best percentage from outside the arc. Russell also had the second best assist to turnover ratio and averaged the most rebounds. I think the most comparable player on this list to Russell would be Irving. While Wall and Rose are both elite athletes and more flashy players, Russell and Irving are more natural scorers with their ability to shoot from distance. Overall, when comparing Russell to the best point guards that have made the one and done leap to the NBA, he compares very favorably and holds his own in every category.
|D'Angelo Russell||Ohio State||2014-2015||19.3||.449||.411||5.0||5.7||1.6||2.9|
Where Will He Go?
The ultimate question is where will Russell be showcasing his talents next year. Obviously you can not completely rule out a return to Ohio State, but for a player projected to go anywhere in the top-5 to stay at school is very rare. Assuming he makes the leap, Russell will compete for the top spot in the draft with Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke's Jahlil Okafor. He will be rated as the top guard with Emmanuel Mudiay, an SMU commit who ended up playing in China instead of college, right behind him. Ultimately, it is unlikely Russell goes number one as teams at the top of the draft like the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves will value a big man like Towns or Okafor over Russell.
One team to keep an eye on is the Philadelphia 76ers. After moving point guard Michael Carter-Williams earlier this season and already having Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid in the front-court, they will likely be looking for a guard and drafting in the top-5. Of course, this all depends on how the draft lottery plays out, but assuming D'Angelo Russell declares for the draft, he will no doubt be a top 5 pick and has the potential to be the next college one and done turned elite point guard in the NBA.