The 2015 NBA Draft didn’t feature as many blockbuster trades as expected, but it still was full of exciting moments and questionable picks.
Here’s a recap of the winners, losers and steals from Thursday night’s draft.
The T-Wolves are building a really nice roster. Acquiring Rookie of the Year winner Andrew Wiggins in last year’s Kevin Love trade, in addition to selecting Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns with the top pick this year, has given Minnesota a legitimate shot at making the playoffs next season from a tough Western Conference. Towns is a fantastic scorer, defends well and is a high-character kid. He’s everything you want in a center in today’s NBA.
Minnesota also acquired Duke point guard Tyus Jones, who won the Most Outstanding Player award at the 2015 Final Four. He’s a quality playmaker who isn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands during high-pressure moments.
A trio of Wiggins, Towns and Ricky Rubio will make the T-Wolves must-watch basketball on NBA League Pass next season.
The Nuggets had Emmanuel Mudiay fall to them at No. 7, which was fantastic value at that spot, considering he was ranked as a top three prospect in this class by a lot of experts. Mudiay is a combo guard who can score with his jump shot or by attacking the rim, and he also can create for teammates with excellent playmaking skills. Not only did Denver fill a huge need, it did by adding arguably the best player at his position.
Now the Nuggets can trade veteran point guard Ty Lawson for picks and/or players to accelerate their rebuild.
Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC finally found a quality backup point guard for Russell Westbrook by selecting Murray State’s Cameron Payne 14th overall. He’s a very good scorer, but his real strengths are his floor vision and passing ability. Payne averaged 20.2 points and six assists as a sophomore for Murray State last season, and his all-around skill set should help him make an immediate impact as a rookie for a team that expects to contend for an NBA championship next season.
We could be looking back on this draft five years from now and wonder why Payne wasn’t a top-seven selection.
The Thunder also got good value in Round 2 by taking Kentucky center Dakari Johnson. He’s limited offensively, but his excellent size, strength and interior defense could prove valuable to OKC.
The 76ers took Duke center Jahlil Okafor third overall after the Los Angeles Lakers somewhat surprisingly decided to pass on him and select Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell.
Philly already has two centers who were recent top-10 picks in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Another center is the last thing the 76ers need. Trading this pick to a team further down in the top 10 might have allowed them to take a point guard — their No. 1 position of need — and acquire other assets.
But as the 76ers’ current rebuild has shown, they have no idea what they’re doing.
The selection of Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky at No. 9 was questionable at best. Kaminsky can stretch the floor with his outside shooting, but he’s not an elite talent by any means. Taking him over a player with more NBA-readiness and a higher upside in Justise Winslow likely will be another bad draft mistake by the Michael Jordan-led Charlotte franchise.
Taking LSU power forward Jarell Martin at No. 25 didn’t make much sense for Memphis. The Grizzlies really needed to add outside shooting with this pick. They were 29th in 3-point field goals made this season and have finished 27th or worse in that category four consecutive seasons.
Martin is an undersized power forward who shot 27 percent from beyond the arc and below 70 percent from the free-throw line last season. Memphis already had plenty of size and strength in the frontcourt, so this pick doesn’t make much sense.
R.J. Hunter would have been a perfect fit for the Grizzlies.
No. 10: Miami Heat, Justise Winslow (SG/SF, Duke)
This was a huge win for the Heat. They really needed an athletic wing who could defend multiple positions and provide scoring depth, and Winslow is perfect for that role. He’ll also provide Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra with a player who can give superstar Dwyande Wade a break off the bench or start at that position if the veteran guard’s injury woes continue.
Winslow was a top-five or seven pick in the majority of mock drafts, and the Heat probably thought there was very little chance he’d still be on the board at No. 10.
No. 22: Chicago Bulls, Bobby Portis (PF, Arkansas)
Portis improved offensively this season at Arkansas with a 17.9 points per game average and already has NBA-caliber defense. He also plays with a high motor and more hustle than most of his peers. Portis was a tremendous value for the Bulls at No. 22 because most mock drafts had him going anywhere from Nos. 14 through 17. [tweet https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/614253132894355456 align=”center”]
No. 28: Boston Celtics, R.J. Hunter (SG, Georgia State)
One of the Celtics’ primary areas of weakness last season was outside shooting. They addressed it in a major way with the selection of Hunter, whom many people expected to be a top-20 pick as one of the best shooters in this class. He has NBA range with his jump shot and can score off the dribble, spotting up in the corner or in catch-and-shoot situations.
Boston was able to address a need and take the best player available approach with this pick.
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images
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