Karl-Anthony Towns Heads Deep 2015 NBA Draft Class
The NBA replenished its talent pool at its annual draft on Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Here’s a recap of which players and teams grabbed the headlines at the 2015 NBA Draft.
Biggest Non-Surprise: U.S. College Players Trump Overseas Talent
Perennial NCAA powers Kentucky and Duke seemed destined to meet in the NCAA Championship this past season. Instead, their best players went first and third overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, with a Big Ten standout sandwiched in-between them.
The Minnesota Timberwolves added center Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky to a talented young corps that includes reigning NBA Rookie of the Year and 2014 first-overall pick Andrew Wiggins, veteran guard Ricky Rubio and others. … The Los Angeles Lakers, who are unaccustomed to drafting so high, selected guard D'Angelo Russell out of Ohio State with the second pick. A dynamic scorer, Russell can develop while the Lakers reload in free agency for another run at the playoffs… The Philadelphia 76ers chose forward Jahlil Okafor from Duke with the third-overall pick. If past No. 1 picks Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid can get healthy, they may team with Okafor to form an invincible young front court.
Biggest Risk: Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
Who knows? Maybe Kristaps Porzingis, a 7’-2” Latvian big man with great potential, can be more Dirk Nowitzki than Darko Milicic. However, the Knicks fans who made the trek to Brooklyn weren’t buying what team president Phil Jackson was selling with this pick. With many dynamic shooters and scorers still left on the board, Jackson decided to pass on the more traditional players and take the unproven Euro. We’ll see if his value holds up in the Association, or if the tabloids are writing 'Escape From New York' headlines about Phil next spring.
Biggest Steal: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Perimeter shooting was more valuable than ever in the NBA this season, as evidenced by the Golden State Warriors’ title run. While guard Devin Booker from Kentucky wasn’t quite a Stephen Curry-level talent, he was the clear steal of the draft’s first round at No. 13. He could become the next emerging star out of the Western Conference, especially in a Suns offense without a true superstar.
Best Draft: Kentucky Wildcats
University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calipari finished two wins shy of a perfect season in 2014-15, but Thursday’s draft night all but assured that he’ll have more chances to try again in the future. Karl-Anthony Towns’ selection as the first-overall pick to the T’Wolves was followed by Wildcats’ Willie Cauley-Stein to Sacramento at No. 6, Trey Lyles to Utah at No. 12, Devin Booker (No. 13) and Andrew Harrison (No. 44) to the Suns and Dakari Johnson to Oklahoma City at No. 48. Somehow, clutch shooting Aaron Harrison didn’t get drafted (he’s likely to get a camp invite).
Still, young prospects from all over the nation - and world - had to notice that playing for Coach Cal’s Big Blue Machine seemed to be the best way to make it to the NBA. It was a powerful recruiting pitch.
Worst Draft: Boston Celtics
A year removed from a productive draft that helped get its storied franchise back to the post-season, Boston seemed to regress on Thursday. It’s not that savvy point guards Terry Rozier of Louisville and R.J. Hunter of Georgia State weren’t talented. It was just that the Celtics already had guards Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart on the roster. There were quality front court options available for the Celts at picks No. 16 and No. 28 respectively, but Boston went in a different direction, that was not, um, Smart.
Player Who Rose: Larry Nance Jr., Los Angeles Lakers
Call it the Steph Curry / Klay Thompson Effect: choose a player with NBA bloodlines and hope they make an impact. Well, Larry Nance Jr., son of the former Cavs and Suns star, might have been the big man on campus at Wyoming, but he wasn't rated as a first-round talent. With forward Julius Randle expected to recover from last season’s leg injury and LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love available in free agency, Nance might be a more attractive trade piece than a solution for the Lakers.
Player Who Fell: Montrezl Harrell, Houston Rockets
A standout big man at Louisville, Montrezl Harrell dropped to the second round and the 32nd overall pick. Harrell needs to prove his 6-8 frame won’t keep him from being as dominant in the NBA paint as he was in college. Learning alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden should help.