When the Lakers stunned the NBA world on Thursday and drafted D’Angelo Russell, it sent shockwaves through the entire 2015 NBA draft.
No one expected the Lakers to pick anyone other than Jahlil Okafor. The franchise known for doing things as they had done before, refusing to change, was expected to take arguably the most dominant center in the NBA Draft since Tim Duncan. They were supposed to go after another center to add to the storied list of dominant big men in Laker history, starting with George Mikan, ranging through Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal and finishing most recently with Pau Gasol.
What no one expected, most notably the Philadelphia 76ers, who drafted one spot after the Lakers at No. 3, was for the Lakers to make the revolutionary pick. After watching a silky smooth, sweet shooting, flashy passing point guard in Steph Curry lead the Warriors to an NBA title, the Lakers saw Russell as the heir apparent and made their move.
Now comes the hard part. Russell will have the weight of Los Angeles on his shoulders very soon. Kobe Bryant will carry that burden for as long as he can, but even he doesn’t know how much longer his body will allow him to carry on. Within a few short seasons, this will be Russell’s team, Russell’s franchise, and Russell’s city to carry.
To help Russell along the way, aside from Kobe, will be someone who has molded young point guards into some of the best players in the league time after time. He’s someone who, for all his faults, might be one of the best at developing a young ballhandler into something special.
That might come with some shock, but a look at Scott’s resume shows just how great he has been at bringing along young point guards and molding them into something great.
First, there was Jason Kidd. Prior to Scott’s second year at the helm in New Jersey, the Nets dealt for the young veteran point guard. Scott and Kidd led the Nets, anchored by some youngsters, namely Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin, to back-to-back NBA Finals.
That 2001-02 season saw Kidd dish 808 assists in 82 games, the most he handed out in any regular season.
It is worth noting, though, that Kidd and Scott’s relationship soured to the point that Kidd is rumored to have ran Scott out of town, forcing him out of New Jersey after the team’s back-to-back appearances in the Finals and a 123-83 record over his final two-and-a-half seasons in New Jersey.
Not shockingly, that off-season, Scott landed a new job, this one in New Orleans. After an abysmal 18-win season, the Hornets landed Chris Paul in the draft. Paul was an immediate impact player, winning the Rookie of the Year in his first season and earning All-NBA First Team honors in his third season.
Again, his success plateaued and, after an embarrassing showing in the 2009 playoffs and a slow start in 2009-10, Scott was let go, leaving him on the hunt again.
Yet again, Scott’s team was abominable, although in his defense, he was hired days before LeBron James left. Still, the Cavs sucked and lucked their way into the No. 1 pick and Scott was again blessed with a young point guard, this one named Kyrie Irving.
Irving would win Rookie of the Year and, by his second season, was averaging 22.5 points, 5.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and earning a spot on the All-Star team. The Cavs struggled, though, to rebuild with James, as we know, and Scott was fired after three very woeful seasons in Cleveland.
Even last year, his first year in LA, Scott molded Jordan Clarkson, a mid-second round pick, into an All-Rookie First Team player.
Which brings us present day. Scott has again been handed the reigns to a young point guard selected in the lottery, and there is legitimate reason for Lakers fans to feel optimistic. Russell will have the tutelage of one of the greatest guards of all-time in Bryant, one of the best coaches for young point guards in Scott, and a host of young talent to grow with.
If the past is any precedent, Russell will win the Rookie of the Year and be a superstar by his second or third season.
Then, Scott will be fired a few years later. This is like a win-win situation!