I loved the 2014 draft. It was deep, it had potential stars at the top, as well as a good chunk of potential NBA starters throughout the draft.
It was also a minefield, laced with players I didn't want, for one reason or another. Jabari Parker? Great, but pass. Julius Randle? No thanks. Doug McDermott? Absolutely not.
It's not that I felt like any of those players would be bad, or were more likely to bust than others. They simply just didn't fit with what I felt like the Sixers plan was. Parker was a poor defensive prospect in a league trending towards better defenders at the 3-4 (see Green, Draymond). Randle was a ball-dominant four who I didn't think had the skills to carry a team. (Jury's still out, obviously.) McDermott was a pick with minimal upside in a draft chock full of upside prospects.
This draft, however, doesn't really have those mines, at least for me. Everybody has their prospects they don't want for whatever reason, but once we get past Karl Towns at one, there's about eight guys who I'm unflinchingly excited about but also have some concerns about.
Of course there's guys who really don't make sense because of existing personnel (Jahlil Okafor, Willie Cauley-Stein), but not really based on talent. I think Okafor can be one of the best offensive big men in the game, and I think Cauley-Stein can be one of the best defensive big men in the game. Sign me up. Better yet, find a way to draft both and use sport science technology to combine them both into JaTrill (one name, like Prince, or Nene.)
The point is, I'd be happy with pretty much anyone at the #3 spot, and that's a very comforting way to go into draft night. However, the ground rules of this mock draft prevent me from drafting all of them, even when I presented the counter argument of "but Hinkie!"
There can only be one, though, and given the choice of one, I chose number zero.
The Road to Russellmania has been a roller coaster. Russell was off the board before the season started, a non-entity in the draft process, before bursting onto the scene, showcasing an ability to create his own shot off the dribble, making slick Vine-worthy passes, and shooting 41% from three-point range throughout the season. He flew up the board so fast, D'Angelo finally released a new album due to the threat of losing his single name status.
But not everything was great. While Russell has great size and wingspan for a guard, but not the type of natural athleticism you'd hope for. His defense was, to be polite, unspectacular. He struggled against quality opponents.
Now, all of those things have explanations. He doesn't need to be a super-athlete to succeed. There's a lot of guards who aren't finished products defensively at 19, and his near 6-10 wingspan covers nicely for a lack of top-end lateral quickness.
He was also the only thing Ohio State had going for them. He had a subpar supporting cast and still led them to an NCAA Tournament berth,
robbing Temple of their rightful place in the tournament. where Russell dropped 28 to lead his team to a win over VCU before having possibly the worst shooting day of his life against Arizona.
I've gone back and forth on Russell. I was one of the earliest backers of Russell, but I slammed the brakes on at some point because I was worried about the athleticism and the defense and the struggling against good opponents.
After the lottery, however, I took a step back and looked at everything I knew, and I'm picking Russell over the field for two reasons.
1) Everybody has flaws. Every prospect in this draft has question marks in their game. Questions about Emmanuel Mudiay's shooting. Questions about Mario Hezonja's attitude and production. Questions about Kristaps Porzingis weighing less than America's Next Top Model. In my opinion, Russell's flaws are no greater than the rest of the field, his strengths outweigh their strengths, and his flaws are most likely to be overcome.
2) Joel Embiid. The Sixers need a player to stretch the floor to give Embiid (and Nerlens Noel) room to operate. That's not THE reason why they should draft Russell, but Russell's strengths are a natural fit with the core pieces the Sixers have in place, and that's certainly not a bad thing.
I really thought hard about Hezonja. I really like Hezonja. But ultimately, I just feel better about Russell being great than Hezonja. Sam Hinkie may disagree, and when he picks Hezonja, I'm 1000% in. That said, it's my call on this one, and I'm rolling with Voodoo.
Next up in the draft is Jake Pavorsky drafting for the New York Knicks, a local charity for which Phil Jackson occasionally acts as the celebrity CEO. He'll announce his pick tomorrow, provided the Knicks don't trade their pick for Smush Parker by then.