When the Los Angeles Lakers moved up to the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, most assumed that they would take one of the two big men at the top of the draft. The Lakers, however, shocked many by taking Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell instead of Duke center Jahlil Okafor.
For a franchise that has been built around dominant big men, the move was a surprise, but Executive VP of Basketball Operations Jim Buss told the Los Angeles Times’ Eric Pincus that Russell was just too good to pass up:
We’ve got high aspirations for him,” Buss said. “We normally look to get bigs, but [Russell] was just that impressive, that we just didn’t feel right passing up on him.”
Despite a less than stellar Summer League showing, Buss remains high on Russell, even admitting that he has to curb his enthusiasm for the young guard:
My enthusiasm for D’Angelo Russell, I have to curb it because I’m so excited about it. He could be anything in this league.”
Russell’s Summer League play left a lot to be desired. He averaged 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, but turned the ball over more than five times a game while averaging only three assists. Furthermore, he shot the ball poorly, especially from three-point range where he made only 11.8 percent of his shots.
It is obviously far too early to judge whether the Lakers made the right choice in Russell, but he is definitely viewed as a core piece of the Lakers future. He drew comparisons to players like James Harden and Stephen Curry while in college and if he comes anything close to that level, the Lakers will be ecstatic.[divide]