Hello all, and welcome to the 2015 NBA Draft Diary. This is our second straight year recording the draft in this format (here’s last year’s: https://sushionsports.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/the-2014-nba-draft-diary/) and it should be as great as the last one.
Although I doubt this draft will reach last year’s hilarious high when Zach LaVine couldn’t hide his dismay at having to play for Minnesota, there’s a similar amount of doubt about what will happen.
Last year, no one knew what was going to happen at the top between Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid. This year, Karl-Anthony Towns is the consensus number one pick, but the next few picks are muddled.
The Lakers are able to dictate what will happen for the rest of the draft from their perch at number two. They get to choose between a wealth of talented players; Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell. and Kristaps Porzingis are all options at their pick.
Philadelphia, at number three, could be trapped if the Lakers take Russell. That’d leave them with a choice between the two big men, Okafor and Porzingis, when they already have Nerlens Noel and Embiid, or reaching a little to address a need.
The Knicks, at number four, are hoping that Russell drops to them, as he’s a good fit for Phil Jackson’s fabled triangle offense. Of course, Isiah Thomas has talked about trading the pick for a veteran in a win-now move. Wait, did I say Isiah Thomas? Whoops, I meant Phil Jackson, although it’s easy to get the two confused, especially if Jackson trades away this pick. Let’s hope he doesn’t make that trade for the sake of all the scarred Knicks fans at the Barclays Center tonight.
The most important quality teams are looking for in this draft is positional flexibility, meaning that they want a player who can defend multiple positions on the defensive end. Why is this? Well, the Warriors just won the NBA title in part because of a switching machine on defense. Draymond Green is getting a max contract this summer in part because he can defend all five positions credibly. Justice Winslow, a wing, and Willie Cauley-Stein, a big man, are both highly ranked players who can defend multiple positions at elite levels, particularly Cauley-Stein.
My personal favorite player this draft is Frank Kaminsky. To me, he seems to be exactly what NBA teams are looking for nowadays, big men who can shoot threes, run the floor, and play decent defense. Kaminsky can be one of the first ever stretch-5s.
There’s one important domino yet to fall: DeMarcus Cousins. His screwed-up team, the Kings, and its screwed-up owner, Vivek Ranadive, are considering firing George Karl four months after they hired him. If they trade Cousins, either because they side with Karl against him or because he gets fed up enough with their BS that he finally demands a trade.
Anyways, the draft is about to start, so let’s end this bloated introduction and begin!
7:35: Adam Silver opens up with the same type of speech that he gave last year, going through the reigning champions and where players integral to their team were drafted.
7:39: As expected, Towns is selected first overall.
7:39: Now the real intrigue begins. As we discussed earlier, what the Lakers do here will set the tone for the rest of the draft.
7:40: Apparently the Timberwolves are the first team to ever have three consecutive first overall picks on their team, with Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and now Towns.
7:41: In its congratulations to Towns on its Twitter, Kentucky used this hashtag: #succeedandproceed. Calipari definitely isn’t shy about his team-building strategy.
7:45: The Lakers take…
7:46: D’Angelo Russell.
7:46: Can’t quibble with that pick. Okafor is the most NBA-ready player in the draft, with a developed post-up game, but the Lakers already have an elite post-up threat down low in Julius Randle. Also, if they took a defensive sieve in Okafor, along with creaky old Bryant and Randle, they might somehow be worse at defense than they were last year. Taking Russell also allows the Lakers to shift Jordan Clarkson out of the starting lineup into a role as a sixth man where he’ll be valuable instant offense off the bench. Russell just works better for the Lakers on so many levels.
7:50: Also, thinking more about Okafor, the Lakers could just look across their stadium at the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan was unplayable for swaths of time in the playoffs because he couldn’t shoot free throws. Okafor, while not as bad as Jordan, is still only a 51% free throw shooter, making him a liability. To me, that’s significant enough of a risk that it’s tough to look past it, especially because Jordan is an elite defensive center while Okafor, well, is not. Because of this, it wouldn’t be as surprising as it might otherwise be if he dropped a little in the draft.
7:52: Conspiracy Theory Alert: Maybe the Lakers didn’t take Okafor because they have a wink-wink agreement with Kevin Love to come to Los Angeles and won’t have a starting spot for Okafor.
7:53: Philadelphia’s pick is in. Let’s see what Sam Hinkie does…
7:55: There are a couple of ways to spin this: either Hinkie is seriously worried about Embiid and decided that he needed another big man, or he’s just sticking to his overall strategy of taking the best player available, believing that talent will work itself out in the end.
7:56: In the crowd, a Sixers fan was holding up a sign, reading “#trusttheprocess”. At this point, that’s really the only thing Philly fans can do, but that’s depressing nonetheless.
7:58: I guess Okafor’s woes on the defensive end could be less glaring when playing next to the defensive force named Nerlens Noel. That’s a bright side, I guess.
7:59: Ooh! Just thought of another positive: Okafor’s poor free throw shooting won’t become a serious problem in the playoffs because the Sixers won’t make the playoffs any time soon.
8:00: Jalen Rose’s team needs for the Knicks is “Everything”. Ugh.
8:02: The Knicks take Porzingis.
8:02: Some Knicks fans in the crowd appear to be pleased but most seem extremely upset.
8:03: C’mon Knicks fans, look on the bright side: At least Jackson didn’t trade the pick. That’s a positive, isn’t it?
8:05: This pick is risky, obviously, because they’re taking a foreign player, but more importantly, it’s just a really bad fit. Carmelo Anthony is most valuable at power forward but Porzingis’ natural position is at the 4.
8:10: Orlando takes Mario Hezonjav, another Eastern European, fifth overall.
8:11: Another risky pick and another bad fit. Hezonja is a shooting guard, but they’ve already got Victor Oladipo, an established player who’s still young and getting better, at that position. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I would have rather seen them go with Justise Winslow here, as their only weak spot in their starting lineup right now is at small forward and teams can always use an elite defender, particularly when that player can defend multiple positions.
8:17: Willie Cauley-Stein to Sacramento at sixth overall. Interesting pick. Cauley-Stein is a center, just like Cousins, but at least he’s flexible and an amazing defender, making him a fit pretty much anywhere. Still, it’s curious that they’d pick him when it might offend Cousins enough that he’d insist on being traded.
8:24: Another interesting pick as the Nuggets select Emmanuel Mudiay with the seventh pick.
8:25: My favorite thing about Mudiay is that he realized that the NCAA is corrupt and unfair and blew them off to go play in China while getting paid for his services. Hopefully more players will follow his lead instead of playing for free in the NCAA.
8:27: By taking Mudiay, Denver is saying, quite clearly, that it’s done with Ty Lawson, its star point guard. He’s been on the trading block for months, and is now almost certainly going to be traded before too long.
8:29: Stanley Johnson is taken by the Pistons eight overall. He should be a nice fit at small forward, playing on the wing next to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, shooting threes off passes from Brandon Jennings.
8:36: This is somewhat ominous for Charlotte. Last year they also had the ninth pick and the player they drafted, Noah Vonleh, has already been traded away.
8:37: The Hornets take…
8:37: FRANK THE TANK!!!!
8:41: I actually really don’t like this pick for Charlotte. They’ve already got Al Jefferson at center, who, while oft injured, is still a force on the offensive end. Kaminsky is going to be forced to play power forward, but that negates one of his biggest assets: his ability to shoot threes while being able to play center defensively. It’s a poor fit and this poor fit might submarine Kaminsky’s career
8:42: Rose makes the good point that the Hornets just traded for Spencer Hawes, another guy who can play center and shoot threes, while trading away Lance Stephenson, who’s an elite defender, to get him. Then, in the draft, they turn around and draft someone who can play center and shoot threes, in Frank Kaminsky, while passing on an elite defender, in Justise Winslow. Not a good sign as to the quality of Charlotte’s brain trust.
8:43: And the Heat take Winslow tenth.
8:44: It’s a good pick because, as I’ve repeated again and again, when you’re taking a guy like Winslow, it’s never a bad pick. It’s really that simple.
8:50: The Pacers select Myles Turner eleventh overall.
8:52: This pick is intriguing because it signals that Indiana is moving away from Roy Hibbert and the grinding defensive mentality that they’ve relied on for years.
8:53: Apparently, Turner can hit threes, another harbinger of offensive change for the Pacers.
8:57: The Jazz take Trey Lyles, the third Kentucky player picked today.
9:00: Here’s my problem with this pick: Utah has Rudy Gobert, an elite defensive player, who’s pretty much Tyson Chandler in his prime. Similarly to Dwight Howard’s teams in Orlando and in Houston this season, Chandler’s teams in New York and Dallas won when he was surrounded by three point shooters while he worked alone in the paint on both ends of the floor. Lyles can’t shoot threes, cramping up Utah’s spacing and preventing them from becoming the elite teams that Howard and Chandler’s teams were.
9:04: Phoenix takes Devin Booker, the fourth Kentucky player taken today, thirteenth overall.
9:05: It’s a good pick. Booker’s a shooter and can play off of Brandon Knight. Booker also fills Phoenix’s weakest spot, at shooting guard.
9:11: With the final pick of the lottery, the Thunder take Cameron Payne, out of Murray State. He’s a point guard, as is Russell Westbrook, so it’ll be interesting to see who the Thunder have play off the ball when they’re on the court together.
9:18: Here’s where the Nets would’ve picked if they weren’t totally incompetent. Instead, the sixty-win Hawks will add another asset to their deep team.
9:19: Atlanta takes Kelly Oubre. He’s a good defender and he plays small forward, so he’ll be able to replace DeMarre Carroll, who’s likely going to be leaving the Hawks in free agency.
9:26: Never mind, Oubre is headed to Washington, with Washington’s pick and two second rounders going back to Atlanta. He’ll be a good fit for Washington as well, phasing out the aging Paul Pierce, although Otto Porter Jr. broke out in the playoffs and I’m surprised the Wizards don’t want to explore what they have with 2013’s third overall pick.
9:27: Terry Rozier goes to the Celtics 16th overall. He’s an elite scorer but he’ll be in a dogfight for minutes at guard with a few other players.
9:33: Rashad Vaughn is taken by the Bucks. This is the first player I don’t know enough about to have a genuine opinion about him. He plays shooting guard, but Milwaukee already has Michael Carter-Williams, Jabari Parker, and the Greek Freak, and all three of those guys can play shooting guard. Perhaps Vaughn will come off the bench and act as depth for the team instead of being an important part of it.
9:39: Houston takes Sam Dekker with the 18th pick.
9:40: Dekker’s good, but I can’t claim to love this choice. In normal lineups, Trevor Ariza plays small forward and James Harden plays there when the Rockets go small. Still, Houston doesn’t have any holes in its starting lineup, so I guess it’s worth it for them to get a player who can be valuable off the bench.
9:46: Washington, picking for Atlanta, takes Jerian Grant. The Hawks already have Jeff Teague so I’m not sure why they need him. Maybe Atlanta will play more small ball, with Kyle Korver at small forward, Grant playing shooting guard, and Teague running the point.
9:48: Wait a second… Now, Grant is apparently going to the Knicks for Tim Hardaway Jr. I really like Grant and I’m ambivalent about Hardaway. I think this is ultimately a downgrade for Atlanta and a very nice trade for Phil Jackson and the Knicks..
9:53: Delon Wright, from Utah, is taken by the Raptors with the twentieth pick. He’s not going to start, not while Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are on the team, but he’s like Lou Williams in that he’ll be instant offense off the bench.
9:55: I’m extremely excited for the upcoming interview with Phil Jackson. While this last trade was rock solid, I’d like to hear an explanation for his choice of Porzingis.
9:58: Jackson just called Porzingis “Young Kristaps”. I think I know what I’ll be calling Young Kristaps for the rest of his life.
10:00: Jackson pretty much just said that since Young Kristaps is athletic and willing to work, he’ll be fine. I’m dubious, and besides, I’m not exactly happy about waiting the year that Jackson admitted it would take for Young Kristaps to develop.
10:00: The Mavs take Justin Anderson. He’s the guy whose absence proved to be the undoing of Virginia; once he got hurt, the Cavs lost in the second round to MSU. It’ll be interesting to see where he plays, though, because he’s a forward and Dallas’ two forward spots are already filled with Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki.
10:06: Chicago selects Bobby Portis. There’s no way he’ll ever see the light of day at power forward with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott all ahead of him on the depth chart.
10:14: Rondae Hollis-Jeffersonn goes to Portland with the 23rd overall pick.
10:15: I like this selection for Portland. He’s not a good shooter but with Damian Lillard on his team, he won’t be asked to ever be a big part of the offense. Hollis-Jefferson’s specialty is defense and he’ll be a useful piece for the Trailblazers off the bench.
10:18: The Cavs are up next and the decision they have is fascinating. If they can choose a good shooting guard, such as RJ Hunter, then their only comparative weakness in their starting lineup will be shored up.
10:23: Cleveland takes…
10:23: TYUS STONES. Well, Tyus Jones, but he’s earned his nickname when he hit clutch shot after clutch shot in the NCAA championship game. Great pick for the Cavs. He’s small, but he can score, and he might be able to carry Cleveland’s offense in limited minutes off the bench, a unit that simply wilted in the playoffs when LeBron sat.
10:28: Never mind, Jones is headed to Minnesota for the 31st and 36th picks in the draft. Jones will act as bench depth on the Timberwolves. It’s a good trade for the Cavs as they’ll get dirt cheap players to act as depth while not tying up much cap space.
10:29: The Grizz take Jarell Martin from LSU. I’m confused. Memphis really needs a guard who can shoot threes, but Martin shoots threes rarely, and when he does, he usually misses, only hitting just over a quarter of his threes this past season. He’s another power forward but the Grizzlies don’t have a serious need for one with Zach Randolph safely the starter at that position.
10:33: The Spurs take Nikola Milutinov, the first player in this draft whose name I have never heard. Normally I would say that I’d never hear his name again, but this is San Antonio we’re talking about, so I assume Milutinov is about to be a Hall of Famer with a string of eighteen consecutive seasons of averaging 25-12 every night.
10:39: The Lakers take Larry Nance Jr. We’re officially on a streak of players who I’ve never heard of.
10:46: RJ Hunter goes to the Celtics at 28th overall. As a Nets fan I was hoping Hunter would last until the next pick. As a basketball aficionado, I was hoping that he’d drop to thirtieth where Golden State could add to their wealth of shooting talent. In Boston, just like Terry Rozier, he’ll scrap for minutes with all the other guards there.
10:48: Rose’s Team Needs for Brooklyn? Speed and athleticism. That seems accurate to me. The Nets are exceptional at everything except for running and jumping, but since those two traits aren’t needed at all while playing basketball, they’re looking very good for the future.
10:51: The Nets take Chris McCullough, a power forward from Syracuse. I’ve seen him mentioned as a sleeper in a couple of different places and I’m happy with that pick. He’s a useful player and he could become a starter on this sorry Nets team.
10:57: With the final pick of the first round, Kevon Looney is taken by the Warriors. He adds size and rebounding to the champions and will be valuable off the bench for them.
We’ve finished the first round, a round that will help define the league for years to come. Who will be the defining star from this draft? Towns? Okafor? Russell? Young Kristaps? No one yet knows, but whatever happens, it’ll be fun to watch.