Once the Los Angeles Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell, Twitter exploded with a faux report stating that the rookie, who wore No. 0 at Ohio State, would have to play Nick Young for the number:
Swaggy P humbled the young boy pic.twitter.com/9BdBwB08bV
— Alpha Gambino (@Alpheazy) June 28, 2015
It didn’t happen.
…But what if it did?
Tale of the Tape
Game is to 15, win by two. Inside the arc is one point, beyond is two. Winner’s ball.
The Case for Swaggy
Young is bigger, stronger and longer than Russell, which gives the veteran a serious advantage right from the get-go.
The Swag Mamba could easily become the Back-Down Mamba and overpower the lottery pick down low. But that’s not the Swaggy P we know and love.
Young is a streetballer. He’s a decent NBA player, but the former USC standout is a monster in pickup settings.
Look back at this summer. Would fans really pay to see Young going toe-to-toe with MVP runner-up James Harden when the Lakers play the Houston Rockets? Of course not. Harden would wreak havoc on L.A.
But streetball is a horse of a different color.
Young and Harden went at it in August’s Drew League championship. Young put 25 on the Beard as the two traded taunts, little cheap shots and buckets with Iggy Azalea in the stands. Young hit a three over Harden late that appeared to ice the game, but Adidas’ newest golden boy answered and won it:
Some players are just that way. Young is a mid-level NBA player but an elite streetballer. The guy Russell would be playing in this hypothetical one-on-one match is the latter.
Young is no stranger to contested looks, either. He and J.R. Smith are probably tied for the league-lead in turning “what the (expletive)!?” reactions into “nice shot.”
According to NBA.com’s tracking stats, Young’s effective field goal percentage (which takes three-pointers into account) on shots further than 10 feet out with a defender standing within 2-4 feet was 42.6 percent. By comparison, Harden’s was 44.7.
Equipped with a smooth handle, strong body and proficiency for step-backs and fadeaways, Young would be a tough one-on-one matchup for a lot of players in the league.
But let’s not rule Russell out just yet.
The Case for D-Russ
He’s smaller, shorter, lighter and less physically imposing than Young. So what?
Bruising and banging isn’t Russell’s game anyway. He’s made a name for himself going up against bigger players his entire life.
And it’s worked out pretty well for him.
With the ball in his hands, the former Ohio State stud is craftier than a grandma in an art supply store. His slick, unconventional style is extremely tough for defenders to stop. Just ask VCU guard Doug Brooks, whose ankles have been in shambles since March:
The self-proclaimed “best player in the draft” is a lefty, which has the potential to be problematic for the Swagster. It’s a small — and admittedly different — sample, but the south-pawed Harden put up 37 points on 10-of-18 shooting in the Drew League title game. Harden shot 6-of-13 from downtown, too.
Granted, not all of those came over Young. And D’Angelo Russell is not James Harden.
But deadly lefties can be troublesome for defenders, if for nothing else but the sheer unfamiliarity of guarding one.
The biggest wildcard going in Russell’s favor is probably the mentorship of Kobe Bryant. The rook requested the locker next to the legendary shooting guard, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, so that he could “pick his brain a little bit every day.” Bryant already trusts the youngster, too:
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 1, 2015
Based on Russell’s online activity, he’s clearly relishing his time under the wing of one of the all-time greats:
Thing is, Swaggy doesn’t care. And if he doesn’t fear the big dog (Kobe), why would he be scared of the pup (Russell)?
On SportsNation last year, Young said he and Bryant “both know who would win” if they squared off.
Young also told Bryant mid-scrimmage last season — on video(!!!) — that “nobody in the world can guard me one-on-one.” That’s Swaggy:
Honestly, a healthy Bryant would still take it to Young.
But at this point, Bryant’s prodigy would take a beating. In a clash of two I’m-the-greatest-man-on-Earth personalities, the edge goes to the one who’s been on the planet longer.
Young jumps out to an early lead, but Russell responds and ties it up midway through. Kobe is watching, stern-faced and arms folded. Swaggy buries a few tough shots and Russell gets pissed. A ball goes flying across the gym. D-Russ keeps fighting, but Swaggy’s trash-talking and laughing make him boil. Young eventually wins it with a that-can’t-possibly-go-in three-pointer. He then looks at Kobe and yells “Next!” Bryant begins to angrily lace up his kicks, mumbling “Just not ready.” Bryant squeaks his shoes twice and begins to walk. Russell turns to him, but Bryant doesn’t look him in the eye. “Move,” he says, as Young’s laughter quickly evaporates.
Final: Young 15, Russell 12