NBA Draft 2015 Grades
Being a Timberwolves fan, I've seen the organization make a bunch of just terrible selections. Derrick Williams at No. 2 over Demarcus Cousins? Johnny Flynn a pick before Stephen Curry? Wes Johnson, Corey Brewer? But, I can honestly say that the franchise made the right move going with Towns. He wasn't the most overwhelming dominant player this past season at Kentucky, he averaged just over 10 points per game. But, he showed tremendous upside as a floor stretcher, a strong defensive mind and a very high ceiling. He gives Minnesota a true center they can be excited about for years to come.
2. Los Angeles Lakers D'Angelo Russell, G
In the midst of the Lakers attempting to land a dominant big man this summer (Cousins, Lamarcus Aldridge, possibly Kevin Love), the organization decided to go elsewhere at No. 2. D'Angelo Russell was absolutely terrific in his lone season with Ohio State, but he appears as a clear boom or bust. He is a wonderful shooter, and a great passer. Though, he lacks the elite athleticism of most guards in this draft and I wonder about him transitioning to the NBA, where is he going to play? Is he a point guard or a shooting guard? Even so, Kobe Bryant can hopefully mentor him and he adds immediate scoring help to an offense that desperately needs it.
3. Philadelphia Sixers Jahlil Okafor, C
You don't have to remind anyone around Philly how bad the Sixers have been the past two years. It has clearly been tanking but yet the return the past two drafts have been questionable: Nerlens Noel showed flashes this past season, but Joel Embiid still hasn't suited up, Michael Carter-Williams was dealt to Milwaukee and Dario Saric is in Europe. Finally, though Philadelphia made a move that can help them right away, which they obviously need. GM Sam Hinkie landed a possible double-double machine who will have to improve from the free throw line and defensively, but has all the tools.
4. New York Knicks Kristaps Porzingis, F/C
No storyline entering the 2015 NBA Draft was as big as New York at No. 4 and what they were going to do. They had made it clear they wanted to trade down, but Phil Jackson also wanted to add a ready young piece in this draft. That makes this selection questionable. I'm a fan of Kristaps Porzingis, his combination of size (7'1") and shooting ability are scary once he gets stronger. But, he is 2-3 years away from reaching his potential, which is troubling for a team that seemingly wants to win now.
5. Orlando Magic Mario Hezonja, G
Right after the Knicks went into Europe to grab Porzingis, the Magic also went across the pond to land their selection. Hezonja is a 6'8" Croatian combo guard who has a silky smooth jumper but also some real slashing ability. The Magic have a young and exciting backcourt with Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo but neither can shoot. Hezonja has proven he can, which will certainly help diversify the Orlando offense. While he will also need time to grow like Porzingis, Orlando really struck it with this pick after I was very unimpressed with the Aaron Gordon selection in 2014.
6. Sacramento Kings Willie Cauley-Stein, C
The George Karl-Demarcus Cousins spat in Sacramento is a really, really big problem. I can't imagine a situation in which both return to Northern California next season. Perhaps, the Kings were drafting Cousins' replacement here, in Cauley-Stein. An elite defender with long arms and impressive mobility, WCS is almost certain to be a block machine at the next level. Though, his limits offensively are worrying, and despite three years at Kentucky, there wasn't much improvement there. Sacramento does need defense (27th in defensive efficiency this past season) but this was still a pretty big stretch.
7. Denver Nuggets Emmanuel Mudiay, PG
As big as a mystery as Kristaps Porzingis was entering this Draft, Mudiay had even more questions. A five-star prospect out of high school, Mudiay instead opted to head to China, fearing sanctions at SMU. He showed signs there, but also spent time injured and scouts just didn't see enough of him. Though, Denver appears ready to part with Ty Lawson, and selecting his replacement was a must. New head coach Mike Malone gets a sturdy, 6'5" guard who has the explosiveness to get to the rim and finish. He needs to improve his jump shot, but that will come. He fits perfectly in Denver's up-tempo system, this appears to be a steal.
8. Detroit Pistons Stanley Johnson, G/F
The Pistons have a lot of work to do still. Andre Drummond has shown plenty of signs, and Brandon Jennings was putting together a pretty impressive year before a torn Achilles. Now, they can add another big piece in Johnson, who was a great pick here. Johnson is a strong guard with strength and impressive athleticism. His jump shot is inconsistent, but it should improve and he still finds ways to score, especially in transition. He could be the perfect replacement for Josh Smith in the Motor City.
9. Charlotte Hornets Frank Kaminsky, F/C
"Frank the Tank" isn't going to amaze anyone with his looks or his game, but he is really a solid NBA prospect. He proved to be a very good shooter in his time at Wisconsin, and many NBA teams need a floor spacer in their frontcourt. He has good size as well and moves very well in the lane. Charlotte needs shooters so picking up a great shooting big man does make sense, especially pairing him with Al Jefferson. But, the trades of Gerald Henderson and Lance Stephenson makes me wonder what they are going to do at shooting guard and the Hornets just added Kaminsky's pro comparison, Spencer Hawes, making this pick pretty unimpressive.
10. Miami Heat Justise Winslow, G/F
The steal of the Draft? Look no further than Winslow, an extremely impressive athlete who dropped to Miami here. There was a pretty good chance he could go in the Top 5, but somehow many teams let him drop to the Heat, who definitely needed him. Winslow is a proven defender as well and he is scary in transition. Plus, the Heat at both shooting guard and small forward have questions. Dwayne Wade is no guarantee to return to South Beach and Luol Deng might also not be back, making this pick even smarter for Miami.
11. Indiana Pacers Myles Turner, F/C
There is a very good chance that David West could leave this offseason, and it appears Indiana might have not drafted his replacement in Turner. The former No. 2 overall prospect in the 2014 Recruiting Cycle, Turner had an up-and-down season with Texas. But, he offers a great jump shooter with pretty good size ands the strength to bang down low with NBA bigs. He will open up space for Paul George and the Pacers' offense.
12. Utah Jazz Trey Lyles, F
As I said in my mocks, the Jazz have a skilled frontcourt with Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. But, it is one without a shooter or someone that can space the floor. Until now, as Lyles will immediately bring both of those assets. A skilled shooter with excellent versatility and playmaing potential, Lyles will also open things up for the Jazz offense, and he offers considerable upside.
13. Phoenix Suns Devin Booker, G
Booker became the fourth Kentucky player off the board when Phoenix selected him here. He is one of the youngest players in the Draft, but he has very good size for a shooting guard, even at the NBA level. The question is his inconsistent shooting: he was shooting a 51% clip for UK into January but that dipped to around 30% afterwards. Phoenix needed a shooter, but Booker is far too inconsistent for my taste.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder Cameron Payne, PG
With Reggie Jackson now in Detroit, OKC was looking for a new backup point guard for Russell Westbrook, and got a steal here in Payne. Payne put up crazy offensive numbers at Murray State, but I still think his game can translate to the tougher defenders. He is quick, has great ball handling and possesses a polished jumper. He will have time to learn and grow beyond Westbrook, and it appears to be a good fit for all.
15. Atlanta Hawks Kelly Oubre, G/F
Atlanta used this pick to eventually pick up Jerian Grant from Washington, who they promptly traded to New York for Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway Jr. has shown flashes of brilliance in his first two seasons with the Knicks, and I think it was a smart move, adding another talented shooter. But, it does raise questions about what Atlanta's going to do about possibly replacing Paul Millsap and addressing a quickly aging frontcourt.
16. Boston Celtics Terry Rozier, G
The Celtics adding an explosive talent here at 16 in Rozier. After the dismissal of Chris Jones at Louisville, Rozier completely took over and finished with around 17 points per game. He is excellent in transition and very quick, but his jump shot needs major help. Though, he has real potential and upside, something not always found at 16, even if it was kind of considered a stretch.
17. Milwaukee Bucks Rashad Vaughn, G
Hoping to address their lack of scoring punch from their backcourt, Milwaukee took a swing here on Vaughn, who probably could have lasted beyond pick 25. The UNLV Rebel prospect is a good ball handler with decent size and the ability to create. But, he was kind of a stretch here and the Bucks could have honestly traded down for his services if they were that set on him.
18. Houston Rockets Sam Dekker, F
Sam Dekker had an absolute breakthrough NCAA Tournament, one that awakened many scouts' eyes on the young forward. He landed to Houston here at 18, which seems to be a pretty good fit. He can play both forward spots, has great size for either and showed a great jump shot at Wisconsin. Though, Houston failed to address their issues at guard, pretty amazing considering Patrick Beverley and Jason Terry are free agents this summer.
19. Washington Wizards Jerian Grant, PG
Washington used Grant to swing a deal with Atlanta that landed them Oubre, who definitely would not have lasted until 19. This appears to be a strong move for Washington, who is probably losing Paul Pierce at small forward and hasn't had a true, in-their-prime difference maker at the position for years. Oubre has a lot of work to do, but the pieces are there, and he can already bring energy and defense.
20. Toronto Raptors Delon Wright, PG
After a great first half to the season, Toronto slumped miserably towards the end of 2014-2015 and once more were bounced in the first round. Part of their struggles was Kyle Lowry and other factors in their backcourt, meaning adding Wright should help. The former Utah Ute has the size (6'5"), strength and versatility to immediately become a contributor to a Raptors' backcourt that could be stripped apart this offseason.
21. Dallas Mavericks Justin Anderson, G/F
Anderson was having a breakthrough campaign for Virginia this year before an injury really doused out his flame. Even so, he is a solid prospect, who has proven he can score, but also become smarter and more selective with his shots. Dallas could use another wing scorer to pair with Chandler Parsons, but again I think it was a missed opportunity to add a young guard to build around, which Dallas needs after the Rondo debacle.
22. Chicago Bulls Bobby Portis, F
New coach Fred Hoiberg made Portis his first draft pick in his time in Chicago, which should immediately bring scoring help. Portis showed the ability to stretch the floor while at Arkansas but also has the size to bang down low. Chicago needed another frontcourt presence, especially one with offensive versatility, making this a smart move.
23. Portland Trail Blazers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, G/F
It has been a tough week for Portland, losing Wes Matthews and Nicholas Batum and likely losing Lamarcus Aldridge. So, they used this pick to help with immediate improvement, shipping Hollis-Jefferson and Steve Blake to Brooklyn for Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton. Plumlee could be the replacement for Robin Lopez/ Aldridge and has really grown into a good player while Connaughton adds versatility. With the options here at 23, Portland made a move that really helped their team, and I really like what they got in return.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers Tyus Jones, PG
The Cavs probably could have used another point guard, but instead they opted to trade Jones to Minnesota for picks 31 and 36 which ended up being Cedi Osman and Rakeem Christmas. Osman is a high energy player with upside, while Christmas was dominant this past season at Syracuse and has all the tools. Neither are going to be superstars, but Cleveland doesn't need them to be.
25. Memphis Grizzlies Jarrell Martin, F
Marc Gasol probably is going to be back in Memphis, but even so, Memphis did a good job adding a young frontcourt piece here in Martin. Martin played well throughout his time at LSU, and proved to be a strong rebounder and adept passer. He will be a great backup for Zach Randolph until his time comes.
26. San Antonio Spurs Nikola Milutinov, C
Another year, another Spurs' draftee from overseas. This time, San Antonio went into Serbia to land Milutinov, a mobile center. It is hard to fault anything the Spurs do in the draft because their track record speaks for themselves, but I was a little surprised they didn't go with a guy that could become a more immediate contributor, because this team is clearly very old. But, when this guy develops into a high quality starter in five years, this grade might look dumb.
27. Los Angeles Lakers Larry Nance Jr., F
It has been a fun couple of months for Larry Nance Jr., who first led the Wyoming Cowboys to the NCAA Tournament and next, was a pretty surprising first round selection. Nance was a proven scorer and leader at Wyoming, but he is rather small for a power forward and not very athletic for a small. He will still work, but he has some limitations, and the Lakers might have been suited to look for a player with more upside near the end of the first round.
28. Boston Celtics R.J. Hunter, SG
After already adding Rozier, Boston continued to improve their backcourt by picking up Hunter, who consistently put up fabulous stat lines at Georgia State. The NBA does have stiffer competition than the Sun Belt, but Hunter has the size, smarts and knockdown shooting ability to work wherever he goes.
29. Brooklyn Nets Chris McCullough, F
After trading Plumlee earlier, Brooklyn got their forward of the future here with McCullough. McCullough was having a terrific year for Syracuse before a torn ACL but he has all the tools. He can run the floor, has long arms and is a good athlete. For the late first round, few prospects possess his potential and upside.
30. Golden State Warriors Kevon Looney, F
Looney slid considerably on draft day, once believed by many to be a lottery pick. Questions about his position at the next level and youth may have contributed. Even though he isn't the biggest he'll still rebound and work hard and his shot will come. This was a great pick for a Golden State team looking for more youth in their frontcourt.