Hope springs eternal this time of year, as NBA teams look to infuse their rosters with young talent that can potentially develop into franchise cornerstones or impact role players.
Now that the dust has settled and the 2015 NBA Draft is behind us, let’s look at some of the biggest takeaways from the night.
The Timberwolves add Towns to their young core
As expected, the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Karl Anthony-Towns with the No. 1 overall pick, giving them a big man for the future to go along with Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio.
Towns immediately bolsters Minnesota’s porous defense with his shot blocking and pick-and-roll coverage, however; his offensive versatility is what separated him from the rest of this year’s draft class. He was asked to primarily get buckets in the post while at Kentucky, but he is more than capable of stepping out and knocking down 3-pointers or attacking off the dribble if needed.
Russell goes to Lakers, Okafor falls to Sixers
The Los Angeles Lakers quickly shook things up at the top of the draft with the selection of Russell instead of Okafor, who was long projected to be the second pick. In Russell, the Lakers receive a smooth scorer and facilitator who can strengthen their backcourt and be tutored by Kobe Bryant. The selection also indicates that the Lakers feel confident they’ll be able to grab either Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe or DeAndre Jordan in free agency.
As for Okafor, he joins a crowded frontcourt in Philadelphia with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid already in place. It’s clear that 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie drafted the best player on the board as opposed to addressing a need, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a talent-driven league. With that being said, it will be interesting to see how Okafor’s addition impacts rebuilding process.
Knicks select sweet-shooting Porzingis fourth overall
To the chagrin of many New Yorkers, the Knicks drafted Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis instead of Emmanuel Mudiay or Justise Winslow (more on him below). Porzingis is a rangy seven footer who impressed scouts with his shooting stroke from behind the arc and ability to run the floor, mostly drawing comparisons to a young Dirk Nowitzki. This year, Porzingis averaged 10.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.7 minutes of play in Liga ACB, a Spanish league that is widely considered the second most competitive in the world.
However, many of Porzingis’ detractors worry that his ascension up draft boards was the result of hype instead of on-court merit. It also doesn’t help that he weighs in at only 220 pounds, which will limit him on the defensive end.
Winslow slides to the Heat at No. 10
One of the biggest surprises of the night was Justise Winslow’s fall to No. 10, as he was projected to be a surefire top-seven pick since the end of the college basketball season. In fact, the Miami Heat didn’t even invite Winslow in for a pre-draft workout, conceding that he would be long gone by the time they were on the clock.
In Winslow, the Heat get a 6’6,” 220-pound small forward who can contribute right away. He has the size and quickness to guard at least three positions and can lighten the load on Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng (should they stay in South Beach). He can also be a terror in transition – either as the primary ball handler or on wing filling the lanes – giving the Heat an opportunity to score easy baskets.
The Kentucky Wildcats, Calipari dominate the draft yet again
Kentucky head coach John Calipari had his fingerprints all over the draft again, with six of his former players being selected at some point. Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Devin Booker were all selected in the lottery, while Andrew Harrison and Dakari Johnson were taken in the second round.
Since being hired at Kentucky in 2009, Calipari has had 19 players chosen in the lottery alone. That type of pipeline to the league doesn’t go unnoticed by the top high school prospects with NBA aspirations, so don’t expect Big Blue Nation’s presence at the draft to let up any time soon.
What stood out to you from the 2015 NBA Draft? And how do you think your team fared? Let us know in the comment section.
Photo: Kathy Willens/Associated Press