Tuesday night was a highly anticipated night for many NBA teams who suffered through a long season of losing. When the ping pong ball lottery dust settled, the Timberwolves landed on top, with the Lakers getting the second pick and the Sixers getting the third. The Knicks, who had the second best odds to win the lottery, ended up dropping to fourth, as the Lakers jumped in to the top three. Top prospects, like D'Angelo Russell, are always eager to see how the lottery plays out, as it will ultimately determine where they spend at least the first part of their NBA career. The former Buckeye was likely excited with how the lottery played out Tuesday night as three big market teams (Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York) will all be picking in the top four.
Minnesota will have the first choice in the draft, but Russell will probably escape being drafted by the franchise that has the longest playoff drought in the NBA. The Timberwolves already have guards Zach Lavine and Ricky Rubio, so they will likely go with a big to play alongside Wiggins. While Jahlil Okafor may be the most skilled offensively, the Wolves were horrible at protecting the rim on defense and will probably favor Karl-Anthony Towns over Okafor. While the Lakers will probably take Okafor, Towns going first clears the way for Russell to be drafted by any of the three big market teams that follow, but one might provide him with the best opportunity to start his career.
The Lakers and Knicks are in similar situations. Both teams have an aging star in Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony and are looking to rebuild one last time around their max contract players. While Russell may be able to make an impact right away, these situations may not be best for his career. Playing alongside Bryant or Anthony would place immediate pressure on Russell to produce, while also taking the ball out of his hands for much of the game. The young guard would not be able to develop as much while Anthony and Bryant dominate the ball on offense. He would also be put in a situation where both franchises already have a point guard under contract who they trust. The Lakers' point guard Jordan Clarkson was named to the All Rookie First Team last week averaging 11.9 PPG and 3.5 assists. The Knicks, on the other hand, have Jose Calderon, who, although hurt half of last season, will be their starting point guard if healthy. If Russell found himself on one of these teams, he would feel pressure to produce right away without having the full opportunity to show off his skills.
The third team who Russell could end up with is the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers have been acquiring assets for a couple years and are now finally starting to build upward. If D'Angelo Russell were to land in the city of brotherly love, he would immediately be the starting point guard and be surrounded by two young and talented big men in Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel. Embiid will be back next season after missing his rookie year with a foot injury. Meanwhile, Noel proved to be solid in his rookie season finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting while averaging 9.9 PPG and 8.1 RPG. Noel also finished in the top 10 in the NBA in steals (1.8) and blocks (1.9). WIth Russell in Philly, he would be able to have the ball in his hands the majority of the possessions while having room for error playing for a young team with low expectations. He would also be able to grow with the young core centered around Embiid and Noel along with Dario Saric and the four first round picks the Sixers hold in the 2016 draft.
D'Angelo Russell is in a great situation after the draft lottery as he will almost certainly be headed to one of three major markets in the NBA. He will, however, be in the best position if he ends up in Philadelphia. The opportunity he would be given to have control of the offense and be able to dish it off to two big men he can grow with over the next decade would be ideal. If he ends up going third to the Sixers, Russell would immediately be my favorite to win rookie of the year in the 2015-2016 season and could end up turning the Sixers' franchise around with the help of their already existing young core.