2015 NBA Draft Grades Part 1
*Photo via AP
Last night’s draft was one for the record books (especially after Karl-Anthony Towns went first, making him the third top choice from Kentucky in the last five drafts) even despite most general managers sticking to their guns.
I was perplexed as the draft continued through the first five picks, as both Emmanuel Mudiay and Justise Winslow were still not taken, considering no one would have been shocked had they been selected in the top four. However, this draft was a deep one at a variety of positions and skill-sets, so nearly every surprising pick was somewhat defendable.
Round 1: Karl-Anthony Towns (1), Tyus Jones (24)*
Round 2: N/A
The grade might seem high seeing as how Towns has yet to play a single minute, but this was the right pick. Towns didn’t care where he was selected (like D’Angelo Russell or Kristaps Porzingis) because he’s going to come in and bring a new dynamic to this budding team. It’s easy to point out the defensive presence he will bring to a team that allowed 106.5 points per game last season (30th overall).
It is the offensive end where I think he will strike the biggest impact; he’s a fantastic finisher in the lane or on the block, soft stroke from midrange and maybe even a rumored three point shot in his arsenal. That’s huge. Jones is also a nice pickup; he is the shoot first/scoring guard that Ricky Rubio is not, which allows some flexibility for Zach LaVine to move between either guard spot.
Los Angeles Lakers
Round 1: D’Angelo Russell (2), Larry Nance Jr. (27)
Round 2: Anthony Brown
Although I think D’Angelo Russell is a great prospect, I really thought the Lakers should’ve pulled the trigger on Jahlil Okafor. Russell is the best guard prospect in this draft, he can do so many things at amazing levels on offense, but so can Okafor. I think Okafor was a better pick here, but Russell certainly has the optimal fit on this Laker team.
Larry Nance Jr. is an all-purpose energy guy, like a better Mason Plumlee, that should have no problem taking minutes from Wesley Johnson or Carlos Boozer. Brown could be a good shooter in the league given the stroke he’s shown at Stanford.
Round 1: Jahlil Okafor (3)
Round 2: Richaun Holmes (37), Arturas Gudaitis (47), J.P. Tokoto (58), Luka Mitrovic (60)
Philadelphia followers are beginning to grow weary of Sam Hinkie’s innovative ideas, but let me be the first to say: stay on board. Okafor was a steal at the third pick and Hinkie continues to stick to his “best player available” motto. I actually really like the selection; he will demand a double team when he touches the ball and has shown the ability to make his teammates better.
At least one of the Okafor/Noel/Embiid trio will be an All-Star one day. Taking Okafor allows Hinkie to explore trades for all three big men, which I’m certain he will.
There is a lot of frontcourt depth now, so it’ll be difficult to find minutes for Richaun Holmes. I am not a fan of J.P. Tokoto’s basketball game, it makes me cringe when he does anything other than immediately dunk the ball on offense. As for his defensive ability, I think it’s a little overstated he could be a great defender, while Tokoto does have good quickness he overplays in recovering so often. Arturas Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic are likely to stay overseas.
New York Knicks
Round 1: Kristaps Porzingis (4), Jerian Grant (19)*
Round 2: Guillermo Hernangomez (35)*
If the New York Knicks are insisting to run the triangle next season then I don’t like these selections for them. I think both Porzingis and Grant are good prospects (Porzingis being a great one) but this Knicks team is not going to be fun for either of them. Porzingis wants to spread his wings and make his versatility useful but he will make mistakes. If the Knicks are committed to these prospects they will ditch the triangle.
Hernangomez plays in the Spanish League and is likely to stay there next season.
Round 1: Mario Hezonja (5)
Round 2: Tyler Harvey (51)
The Orlando Magic might’ve been in contention for the best selections of the night. Hezonja has gained a ton of buzz overseas for the last few drafts, but I was still a little surprised Orlando snagged him over Justise Winslow. With that being said, I love Hezonja, he might be exactly what this Magic team needs on and off the court. If he becomes a leader on this young team, I think he has a high chance to be special if he harnesses his emotions.
In addition to Hezonja, Tyler Harvey has a silky stroke with distance, he might not be the shooter Devin Booker is, but he was absolutely a steal here. Both of these prospects can surely find shots on this defensive-first team, and they will happily let it fly.
Round 1: Willie Cauley-Stein (6)
Round 2: N/A
Willie Cauley-Stein is a very unique player; he might be Larry Sanders 2.0, which is still valuable, but he also plays the same position as Demarcus Cousins. Sacramento has rumored that, for the right price, Cousins can be had. Cauley-Stein won’t be a replacement star in Cousins’ place, but he will lock down on all five positions.
Still, I think Winslow and Mudiay were better prospects on a Sacramento team with all movable pieces and a hole at point guard.
Round 1: Emmanuel Mudiay (7)
Round 2: Nikola Radicevic (57)
The situation in Denver has become more intriguing after this pick; Mudiay gives the Nuggets a chance to move Ty Lawson for something of value while keeping an elite point guard. While I like Lawson, I think Mudiay has an incredibly high ceiling and should be the player Denver builds around. The fact that he fell here is shocking, and the Nuggets should consider themselves fortunate.
After grabbing Mudiay, Denver scooped another one in Nikola Radicevic with the 57th pick. He will likely stay overseas next season.
Round 1: Stanley Johnson (8)
Round 2: Darrun Hilliard (38)
The Detroit Pistons always tend to reach a little high for the guys they want instead of just taking the obvious choice. Last night was one of those instances, when Stanley Johnson was taken ahead of Justise Winslow. Johnson is a nice player, but there is simply no question here, Winslow is the better player.
However, Johnson will fit nicely here, a glue guy type of player, filling a major hole at the small forward. Hilliard is a decent player too, but Stan Van Gundy is looking at a very interesting roster now, especially if Greg Monroe departs (which is seeming more likely).
Round 1: Frank Kaminsky (9)
Round 2: Jaun Vaulet
I wouldn’t have minded this pick nearly as much had Charlotte selected him 13th, but ninth overall is a little ambitious here. Kaminsky is going to stretch the floor and provide shooting to a team that desperately needs it. However, Justice Winslow fell in their lap and Charlotte stuck to their guns by taking the inferior player (but better fit) in Kaminsky.
Vaulet led to two second round picks from Brooklyn, so it won’t hurt Charlotte that he will stay overseas.
Round 1: Justise Winslow (10)
Round 2: Josh Richardson (40)
The Heat were heavily rewarded with Winslow after several teams that needed him went in different directions. Instead, he was gift wrapped and sent to Miami. Winslow’s toughness and chops on both ends of the court will prove to give Miami the future cornerstone they need.
Richardson might be able to slide in some minutes at point guard, especially if Dragic leaves, and would give them versatility.