By Ethan Teo
The 2015 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft featured a great deal of variety in size and skillset, as well as a great deal of talent. Defensive stud Karl Anthony-Towns from Kentucky, who, as expected, took first in the draft, 8th-pick athletic wing Stanley Johnson from Arizona and 13th-pick 3-point phenom Devin Booker were just a few of the many players poised to make impacts in the NBA as soon as the next coming year. Out of this diverse pool, below are five of the top takeaways from this year’s NBA Draft.
1. The NBA is becoming more international
Speaking of diversity, this year’s draft pool presented athletes from all over the world. Kristaps Porzingis, Mario Hezonja, Willy Hernangomez, Marcus Eriksson and Nikola Radicevic are all players who just came from the ACB League — the Spanish basketball league. Furthermore, Satnam Singh, who was drafted with the 52nd pick to the Dallas Mavericks, is the first Indian-born player to be drafted to the NBA. Just three months ago, 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar was the first player of Indian descent to ever play in the NBA, so Singh just adds to the growing international community and Indian pride within the NBA. The NBA’s international growth is not a new phenomenon, but rather a gradual process that has developed over the past few decades. A concept originally initiated to showcase exhibition games starting in 1978, NBA Global Games have become more frequent — teams are now playing regular season games in Europe, South America and Asia. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has noted that global growth is a major goal of the NBA. In fact, there has even been speculation of European basketball teams joining the NBA. Crazy, right? But at this rate, anything is possible.
2. The Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of faith in D’Angelo Russell
With Duke superstar Jahlil Okafor still on the board, most teams in the Lakers’ position would have drafted him in a heartbeat. Okafor, a 6-foot-11 center with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, has incredible post scoring ability similar to that of Al Jefferson on the Charlotte Hornets. He put up 17.3 points per game with a field goal percentage of 66 percent — tremendous numbers that illustrate his low post production. A player of such size and prowess is difficult to find, so the Lakers’ gamble on Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 pick surprised many. Despite his impressive statistics in college — 19.3 points per game and 41 percent on 3-point field goal percentage — Russell is not nearly as NBA-ready as Okafor and many other lottery-pick players. The Lakers see Russell as a player with Kobe-esque superstar potential. However, for Russell to reach his loaded ceiling, he has to greatly improve his athleticism, which is subpar at the moment, and also become more comfortable with the NBA 3-point range. This pick is a huge risk for the tanking Lakers, so hopefully Russell is able to live up to his expectations.
3. The Draft Lottery reform has to happen
The Minnesota Timberwolves, as expected, had the first pick in the draft after a horrendous 16-66 season. For rebuilding teams such as the Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks, the past season has been painful for each team’s respective fans. It has been painful not only because those teams do not have strong rosters, but largely because they do not put their efforts into winning games. Instead, they choose to load the team with rosters full of prospects. While this may lead to exciting futures, the process of tanking often disappoints fans. Last October, the NBA board attempted to pass a lottery reform that called for a less dramatic distribution of lottery pick chances in order to discourage tanking. If it passes, teams will no longer use tanking as a strategy to rebuild, and instead must become more reliant on coaching and scouting staff to develop a franchise. While there was a 17-to-13 vote in favor of the reform, 23 votes were required for the legislation to pass. The NBA has talked about revisiting the reform in the future, and in order to prevent further disappointment among fans, the reform is worth another shot.
4. The Golden State Warriors get a steal
The Warriors haven’t made a regrettable move in quite some time. The defending champions chose UCLA power forward Kevon Looney with the 30th pick of the draft. In most mock drafts, Looney was predicted to be a late-teen draft pick, but unexpectedly, many teams passed on him. He fell right to the Warriors, and should be a perfect fit for the team. Looney’s versatility allows him to adapt to any rotation that the Warriors want to play, whether it is small-ball or a lineup featuring bigs. His only major concern is his strength in the post, but the Warriors have plenty of time and room to develop Looney as a player without damaging their own playoff hopes. In a few years, assuming Looney develops into a consistent player, the Warriors will continue to a be threat to the entire association, given their ability to adapt to any playing style.
5. Mock drafts and analysts aren’t accurate
Nearly every single mock draft predicted Okafor as the second pick, but Russell ended up being selected second. Potential top-five draft pick Justise Winslow slipped to the 10th pick of the draft, while Willie Cauley-Stein being drafted sixth was a complete surprise. Furthermore, the majority of analysts predicted blockbuster trades in numerous scenarios, but none of these ever occurred. Demarcus Cousins was rumored to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft night, and many believed that the Knicks would trade their fourth pick for a number of lower picks. There was a lot of talk around the Boston Celtics trading assets for the third pick of the draft to find a serious prospect, but instead, they were left with undersized guard Terry Rozier to add to their already undersized backcourt. At the end of the day, a lot of politics, to which analysts simply do not have access, go into each team’s decision-making on draft day. From now on, don’t count on the mock drafts to accurately predict draft picks, whether it’s for the NBA, NFL or any other league.
Contact Ethan Teo at ethanteo99 ‘at’ gmail.com.