The decision to select D'Angelo Russell with the No. 2 pick came down to Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, but the choice was clear. Russell would be the player handpicked to build a bridge to a new era of Lakers basketball, the franchise moving forward not with a center but a dynamic point guard to dazzle and dominate moving into the future.
The Lakers had a tough choice to make with the No. 2 pick, but Russell's tantalizing potential was too much to turn away from. Kupchak sees "unlimited potential" in D'Angelo that other prospects didn't offer Los Angeles, he told media gathered at the Lakers' practice facility. Elsewhere, Byron Scott gushed about Russell and even said he reminded him of a legend in Magic Johnson.The signs were there, at least in the Lakers' eyes, that Russell had another level of talent compared to the remaining players available. When it finally came down to it, there were no smokescreens to hide behind. The Lakers really did want Russell with the second overall pick, and they were confident they weren't turning away a generational big man in the end.
Russell might have the highest ceiling of the entire draft class. Analytics models love his game, and ESPN's statistical plus/minus system ranks him out as the draftee most likely to become a superstar. There's no question his cocktail of flashy passing, deadly shooting and high-IQ play fits into the "modern" NBA. D'Angelo even spilled his guts on how badly he wanted to earn a chance to become the Lakers' new hope in a very public profile with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. It's all already begun for the former Ohio State Buckeye in the blink of an eye. The dribble of a basketball.
The choice came down to selecting the best player available for the Lakers, and they think having a force like Russell in their backcourt was the best direction to go. They didn't draft with the presumption a top-tier big man was on his way to in free agency, Kupchak told media, but the possibility is certainly there. Los Angeles now has a clear path to spending top-dollar for a big man on the open market, but whether or not they're able to sign an established player to help round out their young core is one of the many challenges ahead.
Los Angeles didn't let the consensus, or the "easy" way out of drafting the "other" big man and calling it a night sway them away from Russell. This move was more brave than risky, the Lakers coming across incredibly confident that D'Angelo was clearly the best selection at No. 2.
Russell went from being a little-known prospect, to a highlight-reel acquaintance, to a lottery talent until he finally became the second overall selection with a Lakers cap on his head in front of the cameras. From the sounds of things out of Los Angeles, no one's happier than the Lakers about it.
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