Thursday, July 2, 2015

WINNERS AND LOSERS FROM THE 2015 NBA DRAFT

By: Connor Glowacki


     With the picks made and the 2015 NBA Draft officially in the books, let's take a look at some early winners and losers from this year's draft class.

WINNERS

1.) Minnesota Timberwolves

     It's easy for the team with the number one overall pick to fare well on draft night, but the Minnesota Timberwolves made some solid moves that could get them on a quick path to relevancy in the league.
Karl Anthony Towns
Photo courtesy of kykernel.com.
     Minnesota was AWFUL last season, finishing with the worst record in the NBA at 16-66. But they already had several young talents that were slated to be building blocks for the team's future.
     Guard Andrew Wiggins won the Rookie of the Year award after averaging just under 17 points per game. And guard Zach LaVine also showed promise during his rookie season after showcasing his dynamic athleticism and averaging over 10 points per game.
     By drafting Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns with the first overall pick, the Timberwolves now have a player in the post who is a menace on the defensive side of the ball and has shown steady improvement on offense. Duke guard Tyus Jones will be a solid backup for the often injured Ricky Rubio.
     Minnesota has a very good young core of Wiggins, Towns, LaVine, and Rubio, along with several veteran players. They are most likely still a year or two away from really competing for a playoff spot, but for the first time in possibly a decade, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be heading in the right direction.

2.) Los Angeles Lakers

     The Los Angeles Lakers had luck on their side as they received the number two selection back at May's NBA Draft lottery, but it appears they made great use of it by drafting Ohio State point guard D'Angelo Russell.
D'Angelo Russell
Photo courtesy of Draftexpress.com
     By picking Russell over Duke center Jahlil Okafor, the Lakers will focus their attention on finding a big man in free agency with their eyes set on Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, Portland Trailblazers forward LaMarcus Aldrige, and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.
     Many NBA analysts and experts have said that Russell could end up being the star from the 2015 draft class. In an ultra-competitive Western conference where top point guard play is critical, the Lakers finally have one to pair up with aging star guard Kobe Bryant.
     With Russell, guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Julius Randle, Los Angeles has several quality young players to help support Bryant. With a key acquisition in free agency, the Lakers could be back in the playoff picture next season.

3.) Miami Heat

     The Heat had a disappointing ending last season by missing the playoffs and finishing with the 10th overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. But that might've turned into a blessing as the Heat were able to take Duke forward Justise Winslow with that tenth overall selection.
Justise Winslow
Photo courtesy of USA Today
     Winslow became an x-factor during Duke's national championship run by being able to create his own shot, attack inside the post, and hustling on every possession.
     If the Heat are able to bring back guards Dwayne Wade and Goran Dragic in free agency, the addition of Winslow to an already solid lineup of forwards Chris Bosh, Loul Deng, Josh McRoberts, and center Hassan Whiteside could make the Miami Heat a dark horse contender in the Eastern Conferernce next season.
     Winslow could also benefit from dropping to number 10 because he'll be able to contribute to a winning team immediately and not have to be stuck on a rebuilding project. Overall, the Miami Heat may have gotten the steal of the 2015 NBA draft in Justise Winslow.


LOSERS

1.) New York Knicks

     Knicks President Phil Jackson's selection of the 7'1" 231 pound center Kristaps Porzingis, with the fourth pick in the 2015 NBA draft, drew sharp criticism from NBA analysts and fans alike throughout the Barclays Center.
Kristaps Porzingis
Photo courtesy of Draftexpress.com
     Porzingis seems to be a talented young player with a really good head on his shoulders. He's tall, can handle the ball and can shoot from outside making him a perfect 'stretch four' in the NBA. Porzingis has a lot to learn about playing the NBA game, compared to the European game, and he seems to be the type of player who is going to put the work in.
     That being said, most experts are saying that it's going to take at least three years before Porzingis might be able to play at a high level in the NBA. And even if he's getting comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, he's also getting comparisons to Darko Milicic. Basically, it's unknown how well Porzingis is going to be able to translate to the NBA.
     Meanwhile, forward Carmelo Anthony is coming off a knee injury and will be 31 by the time the season starts.
     Porzingis is not going to make the Knicks better in the short term so Anthony is pretty much stuck in New York. Yet, it's hard to feel bad for Anthony when he'll make over $20 million next season and could've chosen to play for the Chicago Bulls.
     Hopefully New York Knicks fans will give Porzingis a chance because he has a lot of potential, but they'll be subjected to several more losing seasons.

2.) Philadelphia 76ers

     General Manger Sam Hinkie appears to be very convinced at following his 'plan' for rebuilding the Philadelphia 76ers. Hinkie has traded away numerous assets and young players, like guards Michael Carter Williams and Jrue Holliday, for more and more future assets.
Jahlil Okafor
Photo courtesy of the Washington Post
     For the third year in a row, Philadelphia took a young center early in the NBA Draft. After Nerlens Noel in 2013 and Joel Embiid last year, Jhalil Okafor was taken on Thursday night. Selecting Okafor wasn't necessarily a bad move.
     He was a dominant force offensively at Duke last season and was projected to go as high as the top overall pick. For the 76ers to land him at number three was a steal and if he can improve his free throw shooting and defensive production, Okafor could turn out to be great.
     But will he be able to fit with Noel and Embiid. Noel showed a lot of promise, especially on defense, last season after sitting out his entire rookie season to injury in 2013. Embiid sat out the entire 2014 season due to injury and has reportedly suffered setbacks coming into this season. Will one of these three center be used as a future trade asset? Would the 76ers even think about playing three centers on the court? And who are they going to surround these centers with? Okafor was a good selection by the 76ers, but the long term direction of this irrelevant franchise remains cloudy, at best.

3.) Kentucky Guard Aaron Harrison

     Harrison, along with his Kentucky teammates, was projected to go somewhere in the first round of Thursday's draft. However, he ended up going undrafted. Not only must it have been tough to watch four of his teammates get drafted in the top 13 picks, but to also watch his twin brother, Andrew, get selected at number 44.
     There's still a chance that Harrison could get picked up by an NBA team, but the thought of losing guaranteed money must've knocked his confidence down a peg or two.

Any thoughts on Thursday night's NBA Draft?

Leave a comment below or send me a comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.