Just a month into the season, the 2015 Draft Class begun settling into their roles as franchise cornerstones. While some have had an easy transition into the professional game, others have struggled out of the gate. Here are our early rookie rankings so far:
1) KARL ANTHONY TOWNS
On the most talented team among his counterparts, Towns has shown steady flashes of his future brilliance. Already an above-average defender, Towns’ has been most surprising on the offensive side of the ball– particularly considering he shares the offensive load with Andrew Wiggins and Zack Lavine. Shooting nearly 50% from the field, the #1 pick has shown a diverse inside game, well ahead of his age. He also benefits from the tutelage of Kevin Garnett, an invaluable mentor early in his career and the playmaking ability of Rubio. Clearly in the best position to succeed, Towns will be a 20/10 player for years to come– but many will be surprised by how quickly he reaches that point.
2) JAHILL OKAFOR
Okafor has been giving Sixers fans plenty of reason to “trust the system”. On a team with no scoring options, Okafor has taken the responsibility of being the primary offensive catalyst, with impressive albeit inefficient results. Averaging just under 20 points a game, he has lived up to the hype of being the most NBA-ready player available in the draft, taking advantage of smaller defenders. However, he as also had trouble dealing with the league’s more prominent big-men. Okafor needs more polish to his game– a decent ball-handling guard could help– but there is no reason to think he will not be among the 2 or 3 best Centers in the game for years to come.
3) KRISTAPS PORZINGIS
Porzingis has shown the most potential out of all the lottery picks thus far. Although his shot is not yet falling, he has proven to be an aggressive rebounder and a better than advertised defender. His body- a critique of his in the draft– has also held up quite well against other NBA big men, with his length in particular being an advantage. Unlike his previous 2 counterparts, Kirstaps does not have the luxury of having the offense run through him just yet– at least not while Carmelo is still a Knick- but his game is versatile enough to make an impact on the game. He will be a player that will get better as the year goes on– especially if he can get out of his shooting slump.
4) EMMANUEL MUDIAY
Mudiay has gone through the ups and downs of the NBA season, but is fortunate to be in a situation where his team allows him to play through his mistakes. A confident player, Mudiay has accepted the role of volume scorer with varying degrees of success. The efficiency is not where it should be, but he has shown flashes of being a prominent offensive option. His athleticism is also as advertised, and many have been pleasantly surprised with his play-making abilities. He is an incomplete picture at this point– but NBA experience will round out his rough edges.
5) D’ANGELO RUSSELL
Where Mudiay has gone through ups and downs, Russell’s prospects have been dwelling closer to the basement. Russell has many different things going against him. On one hand, he plays in a system that does not take advantage of his strengths, running a relatively stagnant offense opposed to his up-tempo tendencies. Unlike his counterparts, he averages the least amount of minutes, stunting his progression, and perhaps most importantly, plays aside less than complementary players in Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant. Mired in a shooting slump, his coach shows little confidence in him. That being said, there have been flashes of potential– although faint. A drastic personnel change will have to be made in order to truly unlock his skills, but the prospects are rather bleak. In my opinion, there is still very much a wait and see approach to his game at this point– but it speaks to his talent that among his obvious issues, he still comes off as a competent player.
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