Is D’Angelo Russell What the Lakers Need to Improve Their NBA Odds?

Posted by Alex Murphy on Tuesday,July 7, 2015 4:23, EST in

By selecting Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell with the #2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Lakers are making a strong statement that they are ready to transition into their next era of potential greatness. Can you imagine if Los Angeles had two contending teams at the same time? The drama at the Staples Center would be unbelievable.

So why is Russell the right choice? He has been one of the most impressive freshmen in the country this season. The 19-year-old has an effortless shot release and he’s capable of completing passes that will make you question the laws of physics. At 6’5 with a long wingspan, Russell has all the raw tools necessary to develop into a star playmaker in the NBA odds.

Is D’Angelo Russell What the Lakers Need to Improve Their NBA Odds?

 

 

Russell’s 28 points led the Buckeyes to a 75-72 overtime victory over VCU in the opening round of March Madness. He hit 10 of his 20 field goal attempts and also pitched in with six rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

But before the tournament, I worried Russell could be a non-factor against Shaka Smart’s stifling Havoc defense, since he has struggled against many of the NCAA’s strongest opponents this season.

The numbers dictate that Russell experienced a decline in scoring and passing efficiency against top defenses, but that isn’t too surprising for a player who just turned 19 in late February. He may not be as NBA-ready as his reputation, but his dip in numbers don’t suggest that he’s just accumulating big numbers against bottom-feeders. He is simply adjusting to the NCAA, like any freshman does.

The Rams’ lethal defense held Russell in check for only two points in nearly the first 15 minutes of the game. The pick-and-roll has been a heavy part of Russell’s offensive success this season, so they were blitzing or trapping him whenever the Buckeyes ran a screen.

Despite the pressure, Russell D’Angelo remained calm and created a few assists opportunities with only one turnover. He has had a tendency to over-dribble at times this season, but for the most part he performed like a mature point guard that was trying to draw attention and create plays for others. Those 15 minutes in and of themselves illustrated why he could be a top NBA point guard.

But Ohio State Buckeyes won’t win many games without its star freshman scoring buckets, so head coach Thad Matta made an adjustment to use Russell more off the ball and minimize his reps in isolation and pick-and-roll situations.

Russell responded to the modification with a flurry of buckets to end the first half, which helped Ohio State battle back from a 10-point deficit. Russell’s sweet lefty jumper led to two triples and savvy off-ball movement opened him up for a layup.

This is why Russell is such an intriguing draft prospect. When he’s not having success scoring on the ball, he’s able to shift into a traditional two-guard role and play just as well. He fits the NBA’s modern prototype of a combo guard and could probably play either backcourt position no matter where he is drafted.

Russell’s production sustained throughout the second half and overtime, as VCU was unable to slow him down. You just don’t see players with those handles every day. There’s no doubt we’ll be seeing this playmaker on highlight reels for years to come.

Sources:
NBAdraft.net: http://www.nbadraft.net/players/dangelo-russell
ESPN.com: http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/_/id/194/ohio-state-buckeyes