In D’Angelo Russell, Lakers See Superstar Quality That Has Defined the Franchise

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers' pick of D'Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor is being framed as a referendum on guards mattering more than centers in today's perimeter-partisan NBA.

It's more a testament to what makes a guard stand out, now and forever.

So many normal-sized people love the game of basketball that to rise above the rest—and almost all the giants—to the point that you become the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft takes a certain something.

The Lakers identified that quality in Russell. Coach Byron Scott explained it by saying, "Okafor is going to be a good center in this league. I think D'Angelo has a chance to be a superstar."

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team would've been "happy either way" between Russell and Okafor but described Russell as "a player we couldn't pass on."

That's the fine line, much like if you fancied two different people but ultimately realized there's only one you truly can't live without.

The question of how Russell became the guy the Lakers couldn't live without can only be answered by understanding that positions do still matter in basketball.

A dominating big man who can score at the rim on one end and protect the rim at the other will always practically be a one-man team. That's why Kupchak motioned toward the retired jerseys of Lakers centers Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal on the wall of the club's practice facility Thursday night and reminded that he most definitely would've drafted any of them over Russell to play in this era.

The job description of a guard who can't stand alone in the paint will always be different. You get to dribble the ball up the court, and the onus lies with you to share it with others in a meaningful, unifying way when you're not filling it up yourself.

Greatness at the guard spot is about brin...

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