D'Angelo Russell and Ohio State's History of Replacing One and Dones

By Mike Young on April 27, 2015 at 10:10 am

When D'Angelo Russell declared for this year's NBA draft, it took no one by surprise.

Even Thad Matta openly discussed the possibility with his assistants during games.

"There were times where literally I turned to the coaches and said, ‘Boys you better enjoy this because we ain’t got much longer with what he just did right there,'" Matta said, via our Eric Seger. "I got to the point where I just kind of enjoyed the game."

What will unfold next season is something Matta is less likely to enjoy. The roster is undergoing a complete transformation, losing four players who were starters for a significant chunk of their time at Ohio State. Even Anthony Lee was a starter and an essential piece in the rotation before a groin injury derailed his season.

In total, the Buckeyes lose 63 percent of their scoring and 61 percent of the total minutes played. Russell, Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott were the only players on the team who accumulated over one-thousand minutes on the season. 

While expectations are high for the incoming recruiting class – after all, Daniel Giddens is already talking about winning a national title – there will be a significant adjustment period for the new members of the team. The biggest issue, at least on offense, is the lack of experienced ball handlers. 

It seems reminiscent of the 2007-08 and 2008-09 squads. Obviously, replacing a Final Four squad is different than one that exited the NCAA Tournament during the first weekend. From a personnel standpoint, there are parallels. 

Ohio State brought in talented freshman classes in both years, but failed to do anything of significance in March. In 2007-08, Jamar Butler was thrust back into the point guard role he wasn't overly comfortable with. Combine that with the youth surrounding him and the 07-08 team didn't even make the tournament. 

The following season was an even bigger mess in terms of who could initiate offense. Matta entrusted Evan Turner with that role, who turned the ball over 3.5 times per game while only averaging four assists. It was also apparent the Buckeyes missed Kosta Koufos' scoring presence, but not necessarily his attitude. B.J. Mullens could not replicate Koufos' all-around game even though Mullens did follow Koufos' path to the NBA.

That two-year stretch tested the patience of Buckeye fans and, presumably, this upcoming season will, as well.

Matta is confident in who he signed to run the offense, however. He's been particularly complimentary of A.J. Harris' toughness.

"He's one of the best I've seen in getting inside the paint and making guys around him better. He's so quick, he's so strong, he gets in there and is a very good decision maker," Matta said, in November. "He's going to be able to come in and run a basketball team. He's accustomed to winning. He is tough. He can get up, he can crawl under guys, and he's going to do the things he has to do to win."

So, while the immediate future doesn't seem promising, the hope for Matta is he's building a core which can last beyond one or two seasons. If it's anything like the post- Mike Conley and Greg Oden squads, it will take a few years to get back to the level where we expect them to make a deep run in March.

When they do reach that point, though, this incoming class expects to win it all. 

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