The 2015 NBA Draft took place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and there was some intrigue at the top. It became clear a couple days before, that the Minnesota Timberwolves were going to take Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall selection. Beyond that, it was not as clear.
The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, each with top-five picks for the first time since the ‘80s, were the teams to watch. The Lakers selected Ohio State freshman D’Angelo Russell at #2, bypassing Duke big man Jahlil Okafor, who went third overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. As for New York, they took a big chance in selecting Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia at #4.
The Knicks, coming off a franchise-worst 17-65 season, in the second year of Phil Jackson as president, drafted a kid who can shoot, but is extremely slender and by most any account is a couple years away from being able to help them. The crowd booed the pick. Knicks fan and ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith was disgusted by the selection. Porzingis, it was said, will either end up like Dirk Nowitzki or like Darko Milicic. Nowitzki is headed for the Hall of Fame, but Milicic was one of the biggest busts ever as a #2-overall pick.
The reaches continued at #5 as Orlando chose Mario Hezonja, a guard who has been playing in Spain. Hezonja is seen as having a high ceiling as a scorer, but has a reputation as a hotheaded player with focus issues. Sacramento then baffled at #6 by taking Willie Cauley-Stein from Kentucky. Stein could be a force on the defensive end, but is limited offensively. Denver got a player at #7 in Emmanuel Mudiay. Mudiay was set to go to SMU last season before electing to play in China. I view Mudiay as the second best prospect in this draft, a dynamic lead guard who can do it all.
Stanley Johnson of Arizona and Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin went next to Detroit and Charlotte respectively. Both taken ahead of Duke’s Justise Winslow who fell to Miami to round out the top 10, a tremendous value pick for Miami. Texas post Myles Turner to Indiana, Kentucky power forward Trey Lyles to Utah, Kentucky shooter Devin Booker to Phoenix, and Murray State guard Cameron Payne to Oklahoma City rounded out the lottery selections.
Other highlights of the Draft include Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker at #18 to Houston. Dekker has dynamic talent and a chip on his shoulder. Jerian Grant of Notre Dame went #19 and was traded from Washington to New York, a great pick up by Phil Jackson. Arkansas’ Bobby Portis went #22 to Chicago. Duke’s Tyus Jones went #24 to Cleveland but was dealt to his hometown Timberwolves. Memphis selected LSU power forward Jarell Martin 25th overall, who will fit in nicely alongside Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. NCAA hero R.J. Hunter from Georgia State went 28th to Boston, and Kevon Looney from UCLA closed out the first round going to the world champion Warriors.
A wave of questionable and in some cases, throwaway international picks littered the second round. Kentucky rounded out their six players drafted with Andrew Harrison 44th and traded to Memphis, and Dakari Johnson 48th to OKC. Some late gems include UT’s Josh Richardson #40 to Miami, Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton #41 traded to Portland, Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan #42 to Utah, Eastern Washington’s Tyler Harvey #51 to Orlando, and Michigan State’s Branden Dawson #56 traded to the Clippers who did not have their own draft pick this year.