The 2015 NBA Draft is all wrapped up, and for the most part, I think a lot of teams ended up doing very well, especially in the late lottery through the beginning of the second round.
There was also a lot of talent left on the board, especially underclassmen, many who could have used more time in college.
Obviously, how much of this plays out won’t be known for years, but based on a combination of needs, player value and pick value, here are my early Winners and Losers from tonight:
The Timberwolves really couldn’t go wrong with the top pick in this draft, and Karl-Anthony Towns has the potential to make an impact on both sides of the ball. The combination of Andrew Wiggins and Towns could be one of the best pairings in the league a few years down the line. Minnesota also made a very good deal later in the first round, trading away two early second round picks to Cleveland for the number 24 pick, which they used on Duke point guard Tyus Jones. Jones is a good stabilizer in the backcourt, and should learn a lot from watching Ricky Rubio.
New York Knicks
I admit to not being as big a fan of Kristaps Porzingis as many seem to be, but I do understand Phil Jackson’s reasoning in taking him at number 4. A skilled big man will work well in the Triangle offense, and though we are a few years from Porzingis possibly being an impact player, if he reaches even half of what some folks think he is capable of, he will be a good player. I really like the Knicks making a deal to get another pick in the first round, trading Tim Hardaway, Jr. that netted them Washington’s pick at 19, which the Knicks used to take point guard Jerian Grant from Notre Dame. He has good size, can shoot and pass well, and he has the maturity and understanding to play a role right away.
I’m sure that Orlando was hoping that Porzingis would fall to them at the number 5, but Mario Hezonja gives them some much needed shooting/scoring ability. If he can keep his ego in check, he’ll be a great addition to the young core of Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, all of whom like to run the floor like Hezonja. Late in the second round, Orlando added college basketball’s leading scorer, Tyler Harvey from Eastern Washington. There may not be a roster spot for him right away, but his ability to score in a variety of ways can be used down the road.
Being in the late part of the lottery isn’t always a great spot, but Miami stayed put and was rewarded with Justise Winslow falling to them at number 10. Winslow will be able to contribute on defense almost immediately, and his ability to guard multiple positions will give Erik Spoelstra some flexibility. His offense also has the potential to be very good, showing the ability to knock down jumpers, attack the basket off the dribble and get out in transition. This worked out for the Heat as well as they could have hoped.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Cameron Payne has been pegged for the Thunder for most of the last month, and they got their guy. Payne will be a very good back-up to Russell Westbrook, with his ability to create scoring chances for himself and teammates. The Thunder were able to get at number 14 a player I consider the best long-term point guard prospect in this draft. I also like the pick of Kentucky big man Dakari Johnson at number 48. He still has a lot of work to do, but the Thunder run a very good D-League team, with the emphasis on the development part, and Johnson is perfect for that.
The Rockets have become one of those teams that you’re never really sure what they’re thinking when it comes to the draft, but they were able to come away with two players who will provide good depth for them. At number 18, they got small forward Sam Dekker out of Wisconsin, a good athlete, with potential on both ends of the floor, especially if he can become a more consistent long-range shooter. With the second pick of the second round, the Rockets came away with power forward Montrezl Harrell from Louisville. Harrell is as hard a worker as there is in this draft, and his ability to defend and rebound will bolster Houston’s frontcourt.
I consider Bobby Portis to be one of the top ten talents in this draft class, and he somehow fell to the Bulls at number 22. Portis can score inside and outside, rebounds well, plays tough defense and gives all he has on the floor. He’ll give Fred Hoiberg some security in the frontcourt.
Los Angeles Lakers
This isn’t necessarily a shot at D’Angelo Russell, who the Lakers took with the second pick in the draft. It’s more about passing over an extremely talented big man in Jahlil Okafor, who Philadelphia added to their collection with the next pick. I suppose part of it is about Russell though; I just don’t see him as someone who will lead a team to wins. He’ll put up numbers, and could be a fantasy player’s dream, but for the Lakers’ organization, I don’t think it was a smart pick. I did like what they did later in the draft with the selections of Larry Nance, Jr. and Anthony Brown, two experienced college players who can help immediately.
The Pistons didn’t necessarily make a bad pick at number 8 with Stanley Johnson, the freshman small forward from Arizona, but if this is the direction they wanted to go with here, they shouldn’t have let Justise Winslow slide by them. I think Winslow will be a better player on both ends of the floor, and Miami had him drop into their lap.
The Wizards were able to move up to number 15 as part of the three-way deal with New York and Atlanta, but with all the options they had here, the selection of Kelly Oubre, Jr. surprised me. Oubre is a good athlete, with the length to eventually become a good defender, but he’s a few years from being ready. The Wizards are a team on the rise, and at number 15, they could have added a player who could offer more immediately. I like the pick of Aaron White at number 49. He’s a tough, skilled forward who can help in a variety of ways.
Like Detroit, Boston didn’t necessarily make poor selections, though Terry Rozier at number 16 seems to be a stretch. The bigger issue I have is trying to figure out what the plan is here. The Celtics got a good player in Marcus Smart last season, and they already have Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas on the roster, so unless they have a deal in mind, this seems to be an odd pick. I do like that they were able to get R.J. Hunter when he slid all the way to number 28, as they can always use more shooting, but with the team seemingly high on another of last year’s first round picks, James Young, I’m not sure where Boston goes from here.