Thursday night in the 2015 NBA draft saw the two-round event start off with the Minnesota Timberwolves selecting Karl-Anthony Towns first overall and ended with the Philadelphia 76ers taking Luka Mitrovic with the 60th selection.
As with every draft, whether it is basketball, football, baseball or hockey, fans of a certain team will have their fervent opinions about their new young player. I offer my opinion with first-round picks I loved, first-round picks where the teams could have done better, and second-round sleepers.
First-round selections I loved:
D’Angelo Russell (2nd overall), Los Angeles Lakers
Passing on Jahlil Okafor had to be a tough call for the Lakers, but D’Angelo Russell has the chance to be Kobe Bryant’s successor. Picking a guard over a big man at the top of the draft is not the norm, but Okafor does not give much on the defensive end with shot blocking and rebounding at the center position, which have turned into necessities in the current NBA. Russell is the best playmaker and passer in the draft, and can help take the Lakers to the playoffs next year, especially if they can add a big man in free agency such as Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge to pair with Julius Randle.
Mario Hezonja (5th overall), Orlando Magic
Mario Hezonja was my top international prospect in the draft, and he will give the Orlando Magic much-needed shooting help. Recently, the Magic have taken athletes in the draft who struggle from the perimeter in Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon. Hezonja is a top-three athlete in this draft class, as well as a top-three shooter loaded with confidence.
Devin Booker (13th overall), Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns needed a shooter and they got their guy in Devin Booker, who can also be a solid defensive player. The Suns have some guards hitting free agency this offseason and Booker gives them a guy who can contribute immediately in a more up-tempo offense with Eric Bledsoe leading the charge.
Justin Anderson (21st overall), Dallas Mavericks
Justin Anderson is well built with speed, size and strength that really improved his jump shot this past college season. His offensive mindset displays a “no nonsense” style by catching the ball and attacking straight to the hoop immediately. He is a very good defender as well, though he was unable to display his versatility in full in Virginia’s pack-line defense.
Jarell Martin (25th overall), Memphis Grizzlies
Jarell Martin is a stretch 4 without NBA three-point range. He will be able to play outside of the paint when he enters the game and will allow more space for either Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol, if he re-signs. Martin will be able to hit a midrange jumper or attack the basket from 20 feet away.
R.J. Hunter (28th overall), Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics picked up an elite three-point shooter late in the first round. He does not need the ball to be effective, and that will allow for more space from some of Boston’s attacking guards.
First-round selections teams should have done differently:
Kristaps Porzingis (4th overall), New York Knicks
The Knicks were in a tough situation where they probably did not get a great offer to move back in the draft. Porzingis will take a few years to possibly develop with an aging Carmelo Anthony, which suggests the Knicks are looking past the Carmelo Anthony era. Wing player Mario Hezonja, point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and even an elite defensive big in Willie Cauley-Stein would have made sense here, if they are still in the Carmelo era.
Trey Lyles (12th overall), Utah Jazz
Trey Lyles is a skilled stretch 4 who cannot take a defender out to the three-point line yet. I thought the Jazz could use a pure shooter, such as Devin Booker, at this spot to pair with Gordon Hayward and two guards who can struggle from the outside in Dante Exum and Trey Burke.
Kelly Oubre Jr. (15th overall), Washington Wizards
I agree with the position of choice: small forward. The Wizards moved up four spots by trading two future second-round picks, but I thought there were two better fits at small forward, namely Sam Dekker and Justin Anderson, to pair with Otto Porter.
Terry Rozier (16th overall), Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics already have a couple of similar guards to Rozier, such as Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas. Rozier is a pesky defender, but again, I thought either Sam Dekker or Justin Anderson would have been great selections.
Larry Nance Jr. (27th overall), Los Angeles Lakers
Larry Nance Jr. is an undersized power forward who will compete for a backup role. I thought R.J. Hunter would have been a good selection here to bring some shooting off the bench, or a different undersized power forward who can really bring energy off the bench in Montrezl Harrell.
Trading their picks (15th and then 19th overall), Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks originally owned the 29th pick but had rights to swap it in a previous Joe Johnson trade, so they owned the 15th pick. The Hawks then traded back to 19 for two future second rounders, and then sent the 19th pick to the New York Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr., who has been inconsistent from the three-point line and struggles defensively, with only two years left on his rookie contract.
Montrezl Harrell (32nd overall), Houston Rockets
Harrell is a high-energy guy off the bench who can give the Rockets some insurance if they decide to trade Terrence Jones.
Anthony Brown (34th overall), Los Angeles Lakers
Brown is a good shooter to bring off the bench and Brown can provide good on-ball defense for the Lakers. He could be a solid role player throughout his career.
Guillermo Hernangomez (35th overall), New York Knicks
Hernangomez projects as an international big who played in one of the top professional leagues in the world but will probably not come to the NBA for a couple of seasons. The Knicks gave up two future second-round picks for Hernangomez, who has a knack for finishing down low.
Rakeem Christmas (36th overall), Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers made a great trade by dealing their 24th pick and getting out of a first-round contract. If Rakeem Christmas was a couple of years younger, he probably would have been a late lottery pick. He is an active post player who can also hit a mid-range jumper consistently.
Josh Richardson (40th overall), Miami Heat
Josh Richardson improved each year offensively while playing collegiately at Tennessee. If he can improve his spot-up jump shot, he is already a great on-ball defender with slashing potential on the offensive end.
Marcus Thornton (45th overall), Boston Celtics
I thought the Celtics could have done better at 16 with the Rozier selection; Marcus Thornton is a pretty similar player to what they already have. If Thornton finds a role with the Celtics or a different team, he could take advantage of the opportunity. He is a great athlete who really scored at the college level at William & Mary. Thornton is very agile and then accelerates on his jump shot, not allowing defenders to contest his jumper.