Just as Karl-Anthony Towns seems to be emerging as a semi-consensus top selection, a trio of players seem to be separating themselves from the pack. With a commanding 70-plus percent of the vote in our last poll, Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell rounds out the top three.
Consider this before anything else: On a scouting video from DraftExpress, "swagger" is listed in Russell's key strengths. That reputation was earned by Russell's heady play as an 18 year old freshman. As a top OSU recruit, it's hard to consider him an "unheralded" prospect, but his reputation coming into college certainly wasn't on the same level as other top prospects from the high school class of 2014. It didn't take long to set people straight.
Russell has a great feel for the game and is very skilled, something of a departure from the hyper-athletic point guard archetype we've seen dominate the college game. But he blew away all expectations as a shooter and scorer, excelling from long range (41% from three) and demonstrating terrific command of the pick-and-roll game. His efficiency as an off-the-dribble scorer (1.04 points per possession, 2nd among all players) might set him apart from his counterparts more than anything else.
The relative lack of athleticism and explosiveness could be cause for concern in the NBA, however. Faced with the long, athletic, smart defenders at the professional level, Russell might struggle to maintain that high level of efficiency. Those fears over Russell's ability to perform at a high level against top competition were stoked by some inauspicious splits against other top college teams. But Ohio State was stuck in something of an awkward rebuilding cycle last season, and Russell was often the only real option on his team.