To become a championship team in today’s NBA, you must have that high volume, go-to scorer and an elite-caliber floor general running the show, unless, of course, you’re the Miami Heat during the LeBron James era. At the moment, the ever-tanking Philadelphia 76ers are lacking in both and have seemingly taken a temporary step back after the trade deadline dealing of their former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, whom they sent to Milwaukee. With a gaping void now at a key position for the Sixers, the Philadelphia fan base will begin to center their attention on the 2015 NBA Draft and Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell, who could be everything Philly is searching for and more.
Throughout the course of what will likely become Russell’s lone season as a Buckeye, the 19-year-old combo guard has put up some staggering stat lines with averages of 19.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. Russell toys with a double double on an given night and has reached that feat four times already this season, which included a 23-point, 11-assists and 11-rebound triple double on the road against Rutgers.
Russell is as close to a sure bet as they come concerning his scoring ability, as he’s cracked double figures in all-but one of his 27 games this season. Very few college players, much less collegiate freshman have shown the poise and confidence Russell has running the show for Ohio State. He’s almost constantly in complete control of the Buckeye’s offense and possesses that rare on-off switch where he can take a game over by scoring in bunches or making the lives of his teammates easier by dishing out perfectly set up dimes. This kid is the real deal, which is exactly why some NBA scouts have even went as far as to compare Russell to a current NBA MVP favorite; James Harden. One GM told ESPN.com
“There’s so much to love about his game. Even when he has a bad game, it looks like a good one because every time the ball leaves his lands, it looks like it’s going in. He plays with such great confidence and has a terrific feel. I think he could be a James Harden-type player at the next level. That’s what kind of scorer and playmaker he could be.”
Sound like something the Sixers could desperately use next season?
That’s because he is. It’s hard to say any of Philadelphia’s current backcourt players have their futures with the Sixers set in stone. Tony Wroten and Robert Covington have shown why they deserve to be kept around, but the starting job is completely up for grabs and if the Sixers are fortunate enough to get their hands on Russell this offseason, he’ll certainly fill one of those voids for Philly quite nicely.
If Sam Hinkie is able to reel Russell in during the draft, he’ll give Brett Brown the freedom of experimenting with DAR at both guard positions as a rookie, and the lack of depth for Philly will give Russell – just as most Sixers rookie have – the freedom to go compete and get better each night without the fear of riding the pine because of a bad stretch in a game. This then serves as a double-reward for the 2016 NBA Draft, where the Sixers will likely have another lottery pick. Philly will then be able to go after the best available point guard, shooting guard or small forward and fit them in perfectly with the duel-threat Russell.
As the season trudges on, eyes in Philly will grow increasingly focused on the draft and if there’s a guy to start hoping a praying to see playing under the lights in The City of Brotherly Love next season, it’s Ohio State’s Russell.