The 2015 NBA draft picks haven’t played one official game but based on their college performance, Summer League play, and the changing dynamics of their respective teams, one can already tell which rookie has a strong chance in being named the 2016 Rookie of the Year.
Here are my top 5 picks:
1) Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves/Center) – No. 1 overall draft Karl-Anthony Towns is leading this early in the ROY race. He has an NBA-ready body, which means he can already battle it out with other bigs. This is coupled with polished offensive skills including a medium-range jumper that is hard to find in a big man. Towns averaged a pedestrian 13 points and 7 rebounds including 2 blocks in 5 Summer League games but you could tell he was holding back. He will be the Timberwolves’ starting center from day one and he will have future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett to teach him the ropes. Sky is the limit.
2) Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets/Point Guard)—Emmanuel who? Mudiay is the 7th pick in this year’s draft. Instead of doing a year in college, he opted to play in China instead due to financial reasons. During his brief stint there, he showed his all-around game by averaging 18 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists on 52 percent shooting. He has all the tools to be an elite point guard at a level as high as Derrick Rose. At 6-5, he will be a mismatch for smaller guards. With Ty Lawson gone, he will be Denver’s starting point and he will get serious playing time.
3) D’Angelo Russell (Los Angeles Lakers/Point Guard)—Many pundits have said that Russell should have been picked No. 1 ahead of Towns due to the simple fact that he can influence the game in so many ways. Well, he was picked no. 2, which isn’t so bad. Russell is a can-do everything combo guard. He has great range and accuracy, can defend, can penetrate, but his best skill set is his great court vision and passing. While Russell is more talented than Mudiay, he won’t get as much opportunities with the ball-hogging Kobe Bryant set to return and an emerging Jordan Clarkson.
4) Jahlil Okafor (Philadelphia 76ers/Center)—The season ending injury to teammate and fellow big Joel Embiid means more playing time and touches for Okafor. He is more polished offensively than resident center Nerlens Noel and has the wingspan to snag a prodigious amount of boards. Okafor is the best player in the worst team in the NBA. That should be enough to give him serious stats for ROY.
5) Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks/Power Forward)—At 7 feet and 220 pounds, Porzingis is not your typical power forward. His athleticism and mobility for a seven footer is off the charts and he can knock down threes with ease. He will be a stretch 4 and will thrive in fast-paced offenses. Of all players in this list, he has the most upside and can be as good as Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. He only needs to add more muscle so he can use his length in the paint.