In his 11 years as the coach of the Ohio State men’s basketball team, Thad Matta has sent seven players to the first round of the NBA Draft.
There is no doubt that freshman guard D’Angelo Russell is bound to be No. 8.
Russell, who is coming off just the fourth triple-double in OSU history, is the biggest offensive threat Matta has had since Evan Turner, who coincidentally recorded the last two OSU triple-doubles.
Come season’s end, Russell will have to decide whether to declare for the draft, and the Louisville, Ky., native should go professional.
Not even done with his first collegiate season, most 2015 NBA mock drafts have Russell going in the top five, and to teams that have potential to make quick turnarounds.
The thought of coming into the draft and being taken by less-than-successful franchises might be daunting to some, but luckily for Russell, 2015 is a different animal.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks are near the bottom of their respective conferences and are in perfect position to grab a high pick in the lottery.
Places like Los Angeles or New York would be perfect destination points for Russell, as he could learn from players like Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony while he gets acclimated to the professional scene.
Even if the Lakers or Knicks aren’t on the board for Russell, teams like Sacramento and Boston could also be possible destinations for the freshman guard, assuming the lottery all falls in place.
If he doesn’t get the chance to play alongside Bryant or Anthony, playing with DeMarcus Cousins wouldn’t be a bad opportunity, either.
And if Russell were to end up in Boston, which might be his best fit in the end, he would end up with two former Buckeyes, and first round selections, Jared Sullinger and Turner.
In addition to possibly playing with the former Buckeyes, Russell would be playing for a former Matta assistant, Brad Stevens.
But if Russell has any doubts as to whether he is ready, the last guard to leave his freshman year after playing for Matta was Mike Conley, Jr., who just missed out on a 2015 NBA All-Star bid and is currently the starter for the second-best team in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies.
While going pro is probably the easiest choice, and the more logical one, leaving a year early isn’t for everyone.
For example, Sullinger, who was listed by some experts as a top five pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, elected to return to OSU for a sophomore season in which he led the Buckeyes to a Final Four appearance.
Despite the team’s success, Sullinger dropped from a projected top five pick, all the way down to the 21st pick of the 2012 draft, going to the Celtics.
While he slid in the draft, Sullinger has found success in the NBA, as he currently is the Celtics’ leading rebounder with eight per game and is second on the team in scoring.
Whatever Russell’s choice ends up being, he is likely to succeed, however, his window of opportunity to make money at the next level starts to close with every year that goes by.
Just ask Greg Oden.