The worst team in the league in the lottery era has only won the lottery three times. Sometimes, losing the lottery is devastating - the Timberwolves lost out on Shaquille O'Neal and won the Christian Laettner booby-prize; the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets) finished 14 games behind the next-worst teams. New Orleans won Anthony Davis. Charlotte? Welcome to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
But even if the Knicks drop to the fourth pick, there are very intriguing talents in that range. One is Ohio State do-it-all guard D'Angelo Russell. Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch gives a detailed scouting report.
How would you describe Russell's game? What are his strengths? What areas need improvement?
Smooth. He's not rattled by pressure and always has his head up, looking for teammates or an open shot. He's not shy about shooting - he's what is known as a "high-volume" scorer - but he's not a gunner, either. Mostly you don't even know he's taking twice as many shots as anyone else on the team because he's doing it within the flow of the offense. The only time he's gotten in trouble with turnovers is when he's tried to do too much in close games, maybe tried to split double-teams with his dribble and gotten stripped. But those instances have been fewer as the season has progressed.
What's been his high point so far this year?
Two stick out in my mind:
1) Bringing Ohio State back from 15 down in the final 12 minutes at Louisville, when he ran the point after Shannon Scott was yanked for ineffective play. Russell had 15 of his 17 points and three of his six assists, and only one turnover, as he got Ohio State as close as three points with a minute to play.
2) Scoring 25 points in the first half at Minnesota. He was 10 of 12 from the field and made all five of his three-point attempts. He had 14 of Ohio State's 16 points in one stretch of the half. He was unconscious.
How has he progressed? Is he the same player he was when the season began, or have you seen growth (or regression)?
As I said before, he's still taking some quick shots, but the instances of those and the unforced turnovers have declined, although he's still committing too many turnovers. That may be because of the pressure he feels to make something happen and score; he's not getting a lot of help in that department. I also think his defense has taken a step up since the Big Ten season started. He's much better helping and anticipating off the ball, and he's improved on the ball, too.
Does he remind you of anyone you've seen play?
I saw someone on Twitter, maybe Chad Ford, say he could be a James Harden-type player in the league. He'll have to build up his body for that, though. If there's one thing I haven't seen him do, and which he'll need to if he runs the point in the NBA, it's come off the high-ball screen, drive the lane and score. I don't think he's comfortable finishing through contact right now, probably because he's 185 pounds. He will, though, come off the high ball screen and hit the screener in the back of the head with a pass if he isn't looking. His court vision is tremendous.
What can you tell us about his personality? His background? How do you think he'd handle life as a high draft pick and coming to New York?
I'm not sure. Ohio State doesn't allow us to get too close to these guys, certainly not close enough to develop a relationship with a guy in his first season. He's friendly enough, a good talker, but all I know about him is he's devoted to basketball. He's in the gym constantly working on his game, or watching video, trying to get better. After one loss, he was out on the court for 45 minutes afterward with his former AAU coach, his brother, and a friend, going through his shooting routine, starting at the rim and working out to and around the arc. He wants to be a pro and is doing everything he has to to become one. No doubt in my mind he's coming out early, and I wouldn't be surprised, as young as he is, if someone from his circle comes and lives with him wherever he goes. I don't get the feeling he's one for nightlife. His dad sent him to Montverde Academy in Florida for his last three years of high school so he could improve his academics and get into a more structured and disciplined environment than he had at home in Louisville, and it seems to have had the desired effect.