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 Western Conference selections in the 2015 NBA Draft.
Picks (Pick No.): Karl-Anthony Towns (No. 1), Cedi Osman (No. 31), Rakeem Christmas (No. 36)
In most drafts this decade — with the exception of Anthony Bennett — the No. 1 overall pick has turned out to be a high level NBA player. In this case, the No. 1 overall pick, Towns, is the best player in the draft and it isn’t even close. Towns is first in points, rebounds, 3-point field goal percentage and win shares. He’s a career 22.7 points, 11.8 rebounds guy that played at least 77 games each season until 2019-20. Towns was elite at Kentucky in his one year of college; he’s been even better in the NBA.
Minnesota traded up to No. 24 where they drafted Tyus Jones and gave up their 31st and 36th picks as a result. Jones, who won a national championship in his one year at Duke, has turned into a respectable backup point guard and is currently the second string behind Ja Morant in Memphis. Whether he was worth two draft picks is debatable though.
Grade: A+ | They drafted the best player in the draft with the first pick. Can’t ask for much more.
Los Angeles Lakers
Picks: D’Angelo Russell (No. 2), Larry Nance Jr. (No. 27), Anthony Brown (No. 34)
The 2014-15 season was not kind to the Lakers, who went 21-61. Luckily, they drafted well in 2015. No, Russell has not turned out to be the second-best player in this class, but then again no one expected Devin Booker to turn into the elite scorer he has become. Despite a couple injuries, Russell has averaged at least 13.2 points every year and is averaging 17.5 points for his career. The next part of Russell’s journey will take place in Minnesota where he has teamed up with the aforementioned No. 1 overall pick.
Nance has had a productive five-year career out of Wyoming establishing himself as an impactful bench piece, averaging between 8.7 and 10.1 points the last three seasons. He’s top 16 in this draft class in minutes played, points, rebounds and assists.
Grade: A | While Brown had a short, three-year NBA career, Russell and Nance together are certainly worthy of an A rating.
Picks: Willie Cauley-Stein (No. 6)
One of the few highly rated Kentucky recruits that spent multiple years in Lexington, Cauley-Stein has been a model of consistency, playing at least 66 games every season until 2019-20 when he played 54 in the shortened season. He wouldn’t be picked sixth overall again if this draft was re-done, but he’s top 10 in both points and rebounds which is all you can really ask from a guy who’s skillset is less and less sought after in today’s NBA.
Grade: B | Cauley-Stein can’t be considered an A, but dropping him any further than a B would be undervaluing his consistency. If he was picked 17th instead of sixth, we’d be talking about an A rating.
Picks: Emmanuel Mudiay (No. 7), NIkola Radicevic (No. 57)
Mudiay is forgotten as one of those players who went to China right out of high school. He only played in 12 games for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, but averaged 18 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists. His NBA career hasn’t been quite as lucrative and, as he did in China, he has struggled with injuries. He’s only played more than 60 games twice in five seasons and is firmly planted as a bench piece for the Utah Jazz. Not exactly what you want to be said about the No. 7 overall pick just five years after the selection.
Radicevic was one of the 16 players drafted in 2015 that never saw an NBA floor, but that’s not exactly surprising for the No. 57 overall pick.
Grade: C+ | Mudiay, while he has better numbers than Cauley-Stein, has been unreliable from a health perspective and is already on team No. 3 in five seasons.
Picks: Trey Lyles (No. 12) Olivier Hanlan (No. 42), Dani Diez de la Fava (No. 54)
In his five seasons, Lyles has never been a consistent starter until 2019-20. In Utah, he was behind Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert and behind Nikola Jokic in Denver. While he started the majority of the year in San Antonio prior to the suspension of the NBA season, his numbers were down due to the presence of LaMarcus Aldridge. Unfortunately, Lyles won’t play in the restart since he is recovering for an appendectomy.
It’s unfair to write off Lyles as the wrong pick at No. 12 when he hasn’t really gotten his chance to be a starter and player a lot of minutes — he’s never averaged more than 20.2 in a season. Lyles has the games of a modern big, standing at 6’9 and shooting the three-ball at roughly 38%. As for the other two players drafted by San Antonio, neither of them played a game in the NBA.
Grade: C+ | Lyles hasn’t been incredibly productive, yet. But giving Utah a high grade also wouldn’t be the right call. In two years, maybe this grade is much better. But for now, a C+ is appropriate.
Picks: Devin Booker (No. 13), Andrew Harrison (No. 44)
Booker is the biggest surprise of this draft. While his college stats are a little misleading due to the nature of the Kentucky team in 2014-15, Booker didn’t start a game, averaged 10 points and was the Sixth Man of the Year in the SEC. It’s not that he had been written off as an NBA scorer, but it certainly wasn’t likely he’d become the player who is averaging 26.1 points, 6.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds in 2020.
Booker is second in points and assists in this draft class and is the best pure scorer of the group. It’s yet to be seen if he’ll ever do it for a good basketball team or if he’ll be a good stats, bad team guy for his entire career. However, one thing is indisputable: Booker can score, and he can do it in bunches.
Grade: A+ | Harrison, Booker’s teammate at Kentucky, had a three year NBA career, but the story here is Booker.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Picks: Cameron Payne (No. 14), Dakari Johnson (No. 48)
Apart from dancing around with Russell Westbrook prior to games in Oklahoma City, Payne hasn’t had much of an impact in the NBA. He played in 57 games as a rookie in Oklahoma City but hasn’t played in more than 40 since. He spent part of 2019-20 in China before joining the Texas Legends in the G-League in January. In 15 games with the Legends, Payne averaged 23.2 points and 7.3 assists which led the Suns to sign him on June 30.
Johnson, one of six other Kentucky players to be drafted, played a total of 31 games in the NBA.
Grade: D+ | Payne’s value as the No. 14 pick is dangerously close to zero. He just hasn’t moved the needle in any way since joining the league.
Picks: Sam Dekker (No. 18), Montrezl Harrell (No. 32)
Dekker’s waves in the NBA weren’t very big, but Harrell has become one of the better bench players in the NBA and, in my opinion, should win NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20. After barely playing in Houston as a rookie, Harrell has jumped from 9.1 points per game to 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season. He and Lou Williams have one of the best two-man games in the league and should be on the floor in crunch time for the Clippers in Orlando.
Grade: A+ | Harrell would be a top 7 pick at the absolute worst in a re-draft. There is no other appropriate grade.
Picks: Justin Anderson (No. 21), Satnam Singh Bhamara (No. 52)
Anderson has had an up and down NBA career. Starting in Dallas, he averaged 3.8 points per game as a rookie improving to 8.5 points per game in Philadelphia in his second season. However, Anderson’s career has been forgettable since then. He only played in three games in 2019-20 — by way of a 10-day in January — and signed a contract with Brooklyn on July 18 for the rest of the season in Orlando.
Grade: D+ | Anderson had some solid seasons in the league but his value has deteriorated quickly and Singh Bhamara never saw the floor in the NBA.
Portland Trail Blazers
Picks: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (No. 23)
Brooklyn traded up for Hollis-Jefferson so the Blazers walked away with Pat Connaughton. Connaughton has been a solid bench player in his career, but Hollis-Jefferson is certainly the more impactful player. Connaughton never averaged more than 5.4 points per game in Portland and played more than 39 games only once.
Grade: C | A boring grade, a little bit like Connaughton.
Picks: Jarell Martin (No. 25)
The primary purpose for this series is to re-grade the decision making of franchises in the 2010s. But it’s also become a place where we bash Chris Wallace for his inability to draft respectable NBA talent. Martin played just 184 games in the NBA and only played more than 42 in a season once. He averaged 5.4 points per game during his career, but the sad part is that he’s arguably the best player the Grizzlies drafted at this point in the decade. That’s not good.
Grade: D- | Way to go, Mr. Wallace.
San Antonio Spurs
Picks: Nikola Milutinov (No. 26), Cady Lalanne (No. 55)
Neither Milutinov nor Lalanne played in an NBA game. That’s all you need to know.
Grade: F | Need I say more?
Golden State Warriors
Picks: Kevon Looney (No. 30)
The 2014-15 season was the beginning of Golden State’s historically dominant stretch in the league. As a result, the draft wasn’t all that important. With that being said, the vulnerable areas of the Warriors roster at times has been the interior. It’s not all because of Looney, but Looney hasn’t exactly been an overwhelming presence for the Warriors since being drafted in 2015. He’s only 6’9, he doesn’t rebound it well, he doesn’t shoot it well and he doesn’t defend the rim. Honestly, it’s impressive he’s still on the roster.
Grade: C- | Only because Golden State hasn’t really needed him to be much of anything.
New Orleans Pelicans
Picks: Branden Dawson (No. 56)
Six games, 29 minutes, five points. That’s the extent of Dawson’s NBA career. But hey, give him props for being the only player drafted in the bottom 11 of this draft who actually appeared in an NBA game. He was traded to the Clippers on draft night for cash.
Grade: Incomplete | There just really isn’t anything going on here.
Photos by: Keith Allison, SusanLesch / Wikimedia Commons