Score this one as a win for general manager Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ironic, yes. They’ve spent the last two years actively evading wins. But this is different.
Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell is among the consensus top-three picks in this year’s NBA draft. Everything else about the selection extravaganza, which will take place on June 25, is a high-level mystery. It’s been the first three picks that have become formalities. Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and Russell are, in some order, supposed to make up the initial three selections.
Most expect Towns to go at No. 1 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. After that, the Los Angeles Lakers are most likely going to select Okafor at No. 2. And that, in many mocks, has left Russell to become a Sixer.
Which, in truth, feels right. The Sixers need a point guard after dealing away Michael Carter-Williams prior to February’s trade deadline, and they have enough frontcourt prospects to evaluate in the injured Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and overseas prospect Dario Saric.
In recent weeks, however, mock drafts started entertaining the idea that the Sixers would select Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis, who, depending on who you talk to, is either the next Dirk Nowitzki or second coming of Andrea Bargnani. Some even had them taking former high school standout Emmanuel Muiday.
Russell, though, was falling to the New York Knicks at No. 4 in almost any mock draft that didn’t have the Lakers scooping him up at No. 2. Why, you ask? Because according to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Russell isn’t crazy about Philly:
After trading point guard Michael Carter-Williams, the 2014 rookie of the year, to Milwaukee this past season, it would appear that the 76ers need a point guard.
But the buzz around the NBA is that D’Angelo Russell, a 6-5 point guard from Ohio State whom many see as a lesser Stephen Curry-type, doesn’t want to play for the unpredictable 76ers. Russell did work out for the 76ers last week.
Showing discontent for one team doesn’t always work. Just ask Stephen Curry, who tried to avoid becoming a member of the Golden State Warriors at first. But this can work. And if Russell is hoping to land in New York instead of Philly, letting his disinterest in joining the Sixers become public knowledge is a good way to streamline that desire.
Only Russell doesn’t hate the Sixers.
Per Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony:
Contrary to reports, I'm told D'Angelo Russell would be thrilled to be play for Philadelphia. He says he had a great workout there this week
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 21, 2015
Well, there you go. Russell isn’t about to admit that he’d rather not play for the Sixers, but if he really wanted to send subliminal punches their way, he wouldn’t have worked out for them. And though he reportedly cancelled his first workout because he was sick, this isn’t a pre-draft shindig you reschedule if you don’t want to play for said team.
To that end, Knicks fans are free to assume the fetal position.
It’s more than likely, if not inevitable, that Russell doesn’t get past Philly at No. 3.