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2015 NBA Draft Re-grade: Eastern Conference

by Josh Mullenix | @TheJMULL_

Most drafts have a group of players that are head and shoulders above the rest. The 2015 NBA Draft has one player. Karl Anthony-Towns is first in points, rebounds, 3-point percentage and win shares — by 23.8 — in this draft class. 

The remainder of this class is highlighted by three other all-stars, Devin Booker, Kristaps Prozingis and D’Angelo Russell, who haven’t yet been on teams anywhere close to contending and, impactful, NBA rotation pieces like Myles Turner, Montrezl Harrell and Norman Powell.

We’re halfway through the decade as the 110 Sports NBA re-grade series continues with the Eastern Conference selections in the 2015 NBA Draft. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Picks (Pick No.): Jahlil Okafor (No. 3), Willy Hernangomez (No. 35), Richaun Holmes (No. 37), Arturas Gudaitis (No. 47), JP Tokoto (No. 58), Luka Mitrovic (No. 60)

A year after drafting Joel Embiid, they drafted another big man, Okafor, who had just come off of a championship at Duke. Okafor was phenomenal as a rookie. In 53 games, he averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his all-rookie campaign. The rest of his career hasn’t been nearly as exciting, or successful. After another double-digit scoring year as a sophomore, Okafor hasn’t averaged more than 8.2 points or played in more than 59 games. The NBA values two things in bigs in 2020: stretching the floor on offense and being able to guard in space on defense. Okafor is not known for either of those things and has gone from a promising rookie to an afterthought in New Orleans.

The rest of the draft class is largely uninspiring. Hernangomez never played a game in a Philly uniform and Holmes never played more than 57 games in a season during his three campaigns in the City of Brotherly Love. He’s now made headlines for accidentally violating the bubble rules in Orlando.

Grade: C- | Okafor has played every year since being drafted, but he really shouldn’t have been drafted third. Hernangomez and Holmes are the only other two players to play a single NBA game.

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New York Knicks

Picks: Kristaps Porzingis (No. 4)

Despite the New York faithful booing KP on draft night, he ended up being one of the best selections for the Knicks this decade. He’s top six in both points and rebounds in this draft class despite not playing a game in 2018-19. He wasn’t happy in New York, but that wasn’t his fault and nobody can call him crazy for wanting out. The Unicorn is a career 18.1 points and 7.6 rebounds player who is now part of one of the better young teams in the NBA.

Grade: A | Porzingis is the best talent in this draft and would rival Karl-Anthony Towns statistically if he was healthy all five seasons.

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Orlando Magic

Picks: Mario Hezonja (No. 5), Tyler Harvey (No. 51)

Hezonja has played in 65 games or more three times. That’s about the only positive thing you can say about the production value of the No. 5 overall pick. The Croatian is outside of the top 20 in this draft class in points, rebounds and assists, never averaging more than 9.6 points per game in a season. 

Grade: C- | Hezonja has contributed to an NBA team every season since he entered the league, but he leaves you wanting more from a No. 5 pick, and Harvey never played an NBA game.

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Detroit Pistons

Picks: Stanley Johnson (No. 8), Darrun Hilliard (No. 38)

Johnson was never inspiring in Detroit. He averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in his four seasons in the Motor City over 267 games. Injuries have plagued the Arizona product in recent years as he’s only played 86 games since the beginning of 2018. He only appeared in 20 games in Toronto in 2019-20, averaging just five minutes per game. 

Grade: C | As boring as Hezonja has been, Johnson has been more so, but the Pistons got 91 more games out of their second round pick so they get a slightly better grade. But that’s not saying much.

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Charlotte Hornets

Picks: Frank Kaminsky (No. 9), Juan Pablo Vaulet (No. 39)

Frank the Tank has been extremely reliable in the NBA, just like he was at Wisconsin. The difference is that he was the best player in college basketball his senior year and hasn’t exactly taken off in the NBA. Give credit to Kaminsky: He’s not an explosive scorer, nor does he rebound particularly well for a guy who is seven feet tall, but he’s been a formidable 3-point shooter since he got into the NBA and that has kept him on NBA rosters. He’s 13th in points, 13th in rebounds and 14th in assists out of this draft class and would probably find himself right on the edge of the lottery in a re-draft. 

Juan Pablo Vaulet is one of the 16 players drafted in 2015 that never played in an NBA game. You’d like for your top 40 pick to at least see the court a couple of times, but that wasn’t the case.

Grade: B- | Kaminsky wasn’t the highest value at No. 9, but he’s a reliable NBA player, which can’t be said for everyone in the top 10.

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Miami Heat

Picks: Justise Winslow (No. 10), Josh Richardson (No. 40)

The Heat are one of just two teams in this draft with multiple picks that selected two players who have played all five seasons since entering the league. Winslow has cemented himself as one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA and a respectable 3-point shooter when he’s healthy. That’s the only major knock on Winslow, who has had two seasons already in which he played less than 20 games. 

Richardson developed into a starter in his second year in Miami and has started every game he has played in except two since 2017. The guard out of Tennessee is fourth in minutes played and seventh in points in this class as the No. 40 pick and is now a starter for the 76ers who have aspirations of winning a title in 2020. 

Grade: A | I can’t give them an A+ because Winslow hasn’t produced like the 10th-best player in this draft (even though he would probably go higher in a re-draft). However, Richardson being as good as he has after being selected 40th makes the floor of this grade pretty high. 

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Indiana Pacers

Picks: Myles Turner (No. 11), Joe Young (No. 43)

Turner is one of the few players who has met expectations as a No. 11 pick and then some, but somehow also leaves fans and his franchise wanting more from him. The 6’11 center can stretch the floor, can knock down the 3-point shot and play lockdown defense to the tune of 2.1 blocks per game for his career. With that being said, Turner has never quite taken off like the Pacers thought he would and he’s become a very solid third or fourth option for the Pacers behind Victor Oladipo and their other talented perimeter players. You just can’t help but wonder if he could be more than the 12 points per game guy he is.

Young played 127 games for Indiana over three seasons. On August 1, 2018, he signed a deal with Nanjing Monkey King in China where he has played since then minus time on the Lakers roster in the 2019 Summer League. 

Grade: A | Turner would be drafted much higher in a re-draft and Young was one of just three players taken in the bottom 18 of this draft to play multiple NBA seasons. 

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Atlanta Hawks

Picks: Kelly Oubre (No. 15), Marcus Eriksson (No. 50), Dimitrios Agravanis (No. 59)

The Wizards traded up to No. 15 to draft Oubre in a three-team trade and the Hawks ended up with a pair of picks and Tim Hadaway Jr. Hardaway Jr. had a very solid 2016-17 campaign in Atlanta but really took off after joining the Knicks before the beginning of 2017-18 season. Ultimately, the Hawks have very little to show for this draft, especially considering Eriksson and Agravanis played a total of zero NBA games combined.

Grade: C | It’s hard to fault a team for picking two guys with its bottom two picks who never entered an NBA game, or for trading Oubre, who isn’t exactly a needle-mover in the league. The grade, more than anything, comes from a missed opportunity to advance the franchise in any way.

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Boston Celtics

Picks: Terry Rozier (No. 16), R.J. Hunter (No. 28), Jordan Mickey (No. 33), Marcus Thornton (No. 45)

The only player here with a substantial NBA career is Rozier. The other three, even though they played seven seasons combined, only appeared in a total of 109 games. Scary Terry is 11th in points, seventh in assists and 11th in win shares in this draft out as the No. 16 selection. That’s ultimately good value but doesn’t make up for the lack of impact from the other three picks. It became clear that Rozier was going to be far too expensive in free agency for Boston to keep him, so they instead signed and traded him for Kemba Walker prior to the beginning of the 2019-20 season. With that being said, Rozier was impactful for the Celtics during his tenure there.

Grade: B | Rozier has produced enough in the NBA to get this grade to a very average spot. The other three picks aren’t exactly helping. 

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Milwaukee Bucks

Picks: Rashad Vaughn (No. 17), Norman Powell (No. 46)

This is one of those awkward times when a team’s 46th pick is far better than the team’s 17th pick. It’s even more awkward when the Bucks traded Powell and the pick that would ultimately personify in the form of OG Anunoby to the Raptors for Greivis Vasquez, who is no longer in the NBA. After being nothing more than a role piece in Toronto for four seasons, Powell is averaging 16.4 points per game while shooting 40% from beyond the arc in 2019-20 and has been a big part of replacing the lost production from Kawhi Leonard in Toronto. 

Vaughn played for three teams in three seasons and hasn’t been in the league since 2018. 

Grade: D | The Bucks drafted Powell and then gave him and a pick that became Anunoby away for virtually nothing. I’m sorry, but that’s really, really bad. Fortunately, Milwaukee isn’t hurting for those players in 2020.

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Washington Wizards

Picks: Jerian Grant (No. 19), Aaron White (No. 49)

As previously discussed, the Wizards traded up to select Kelly Oubre on draft night in 2015. It’s hard to say that was a bad decision as Oubre has exceeded that selection position in almost every statistical category. With that being said, Oubre’s best years have come in Phoenix where he’s had the ball in his hands more instead of being completely behind John Wall and Bradley Beal. For a team with two ball-dominant guards like that, Oubre wasn’t the right fit, but he was one of the better players taken in the middle of the first round. 

Grade: B | Not good, not bad, just average. 

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Toronto Raptors

PIcks: Delon Wright (No. 20)

Toronto also walked away with Powell on draft night but they technically drafted Delon Wright. Wright has found his role as a bench scorer on a good team in Dallas after showing his scoring abilities playing 30 minutes per game for a deteriorated Grizzlies team in 2018-19. His career certainly hasn’t been inspiring but has improved every season in every statistical category.

Grade: B+ | This grade also takes into account what Toronto has gotten out of Powell since the trade. 

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Chicago Bulls

Picks: Bobby Portis (No. 22)

Chicago lost their second round pick in the same trade that sent Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic to Denver for Doug McDerott and Anthony Randolph. With their lone pick, the Bulls selected Portis, who might be the least talked about solid basketball player in the NBA, and he’s quietly a top 15 player in this draft. He got significantly better each year in Chicago and had his best year in the NBA in 2018-19 when he averaged 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds. He rebounds it well and is a career 36% 3-point shooter. He’s now stuck in New York playing for the Knicks which isn’t good for any player, but he’s undoubtedly had a very solid NBA career thus far.

Grade: B+ | I couldn’t quite bring myself to give Bobby Portis and A all on his own, but he’s certainly deserving of a B+.

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Cleveland Cavaliers

Picks: Tyus Jones (No. 24), Sir’dominic Pointer (No. 53) 

In case you had forgotten, Lebron James returned to the promised land prior to the 2014-15 season and the Cavs went to the NBA Finals. As a result, the draft was all of a sudden not a big deal for Cleveland. Minnesota traded two second round picks on draft night to Cleveland to move up and take Jones at No. 24. With those picks, the Cavs drafted Rakeem Christmas and Cedi Osman. Christmas spent two seasons in the league and Osman didn’t enter the league until 2017-18. He’s been a 12 points per game guy his last two seasons in Cleveland but was only there for the back end of Lebron’s second stint in the Land. 

Grade: C+ | Osman has ended up being a solid NBA player, but this is just a boring, non-needing moving draft for Cleveland. Just like a C in the grade book.

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Brooklyn Nets

Picks: Chris McCullough (No. 29), Pat Connaughton (No. 41)

Brooklyn traded up to draft Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, sending Connaughton and Mason Plumlee to Portland. Calling Connaughton impactful might be a stretch, but the 41st pick has turned himself into a bench piece that teams want and is currently coming off the bench in Milwaukee playing 18 minutes per game. With that being said, it was the right move for the Nets who got a player in Hollis-Jefferson who has been much more impactful in his NBA career. 

Grade: B+ | The decisions made by Brooklyn on draft night were not bad at all. It’s a shame Boston had all of their picks for the majority of the second half of the decade.

Photos by: Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons, Ed / Wikimedia Commons

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