By DARRELL DUNHAM JR. (@tresd97)
Photo credit goes to FOX Sports.
The 2015 draft class has provided a great groundwork and foundation for the future of the National Basketball Association. From Jahlil Okafor giving us great examples of his hands in Boston to D’Angelo Russell channeling his inner “Black Mamba” to leave his teammates out to dry, we have been graced with the raw talent of these rookies throughout this season -- something we hope to see them build on as they progress in their careers.
But, no, in all seriousness…
With the 2015-16 NBA regular season’s campaign at its end, I found it fitting to rank the top rookies from last year’s draft in how they will be ranked in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting. This draft included a few players who can be stars right away for their teams in the very NEAR future, such as a Kyrie Irving in 2011 or Andrew Wiggins in 2014.
"I don’t have him higher on the list because of how his season started."
Devin Booker. Photo credit goes to AZ Central.
No. 5: Devin Booker, SG, Phoenix Suns
Drafted: No. 13 by Phoenix
University of Kentucky
2015-16 Stats: 13.8 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.5 RPG, .43 FG%, .34 3P%, .84 FT%
If this were based off the beginning of the season, Devin Booker would have been an easy decision to leave off this list. Before the month of January, Booker hadn’t averaged over eight points per game because of minute limitations.
But after that, the 6-foot-6 two-guard out of Kentucky caught fire, thanks to his increase in the playing time in lieu of injuries to Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe. Booker, as a starter this season, averaged 17.4 points per game, which is greater than the scoring numbers of Emmanuel Mudiay and DeAngelo Russell.
I don’t have him higher on the list because of how his season started. Not that it has much to do with him, but he didn’t start the season off with any consideration for being a top rookie in the NBA. Speaking of which, with Devin Booker’s emergence as a solid scorer, it will be interesting to see how the Suns manage minutes between him, Bledsoe and Knight.
"He has been consistently decent this season."
D'Angelo Russell. Photo credit goes to USA Today.
No. 4: D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Los Angeles Lakers
Drafted: No. 2 by Los Angeles
Ohio State University
2015-16 Stats: 13.2 PPG, 3.3 APG, 3.4 RPG, .41 FG%, .35 3P%, .73 FT%
I could make the whole Snapchat joke again, but I’m just going to leave that where it’s at like Iggy should have did with… No, I said I wasn’t going to do it again.
Beside the late-season controversy cloud that followed Russell, he has been consistently decent this season, with a few stretches of excellence here and there. It was hard for me to decide between D-Loading and Devin Booker’s positions on the list, but I feel that Russell was a better player overall throughout the whole season.
Just look at their Player Efficiency Ratings: 13.22 and 12.00, respectively. Russell was a better defender than Booker this season, averaging almost half a steal more. While it’s going to take a while for him to regain the trust of teammates, D’Angelo should progress very well this offseason and have a great second year, especially with the departure of Kobe Bryant.
"His overall play on the court just doesn’t add up to the production of the top two guys on this list."
Jahlil Okafor. Photo credit goes to SB Nation.
No. 3: Jahlil Okafor, C, Philadelphia 76ers
Drafted: No. 3 by Philadelphia
2015-16 Stats: 17.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, .51 FG%, .69 FT%
If you go off stats alone, you would think it’s crazy for me to have Jahlil Okafor No. 3 on this list.
But if you watched any of his games this season, or if you have watched him during his time at Duke, you would know that Okafor has a large deficiency at the defensive side of the ball. If you don’t believe me, watch these examples:
Now, do I think that Jahlil can improve defensively? Yes, with the proper coaching along with his natural length and athleticism, Okafor can transform into a beast defensively.
But he isn’t that yet. Not to take away from what he did on the offensive end, but his overall play on the court just doesn’t add up to the production of the top two guys on this list.
"Kristaps is a much better on-ball defender than Jahlil Okafor."
Kristaps Porzingis. Photo credit goes to the New York Post.
No. 2: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, New York Knicks
Drafted: No. 4 by New York
2015-16 Stats: 14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, .421 FG%, .333 3PG%, .84 FT%
Yes, I have Porzingis over Okafor. First of all, Kristaps is way more versatile on offense than Jahlil -- that can be seen from his 3-point shooting numbers this season. As a 7-foot-3 big man, those stats are nothing short of impressive. Kristaps’ ability to work away from the basket is way greater than that of Jahlil’s by a LLLLOOOONNNNGGGG shot.
And for his scoring numbers, yes, I know Jahlil scored more than Porzingis. But, Porzingis had to play behind Carmelo Anthony. Of course Jahlil would score more when he doesn’t have to play with a raging ball hog.
Also, Kristaps is a much better on-ball defender than Jahlil Okafor. Porzingis put up almost a steal a game, which is a high mark for someone who is over 7-feet tall. If you don’t believe me, let me show you how good this man is on defense compared to what you saw from Jahlil:
For him to come into the league with so many doubts and jeers during draft day and do what he did this season is amazing. As a self-admitted blind hater of the Knicks’ decision to draft him, I can say I was wrong.
Instead of being someone whom I thought would be a “four-year project,” Porzingis walked into the NBA and became the second best rookie in the league. Watch out for him next season. It’s going to be Amazingis!
(I can’t believe I just said that……)
"There’s not much more I can say about him other than “pure excellence.”
Karl-Anthony Towns. Photo credit goes to sportingnews.com.
No. 1: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Drafted: No. 1 by Minnesota
2015-16 Stats: 18.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG, .542 FG%, .341 3P%, .811 FT%
The last two guys were impressive young big men who have the talent to be All-Stars if they reach their full potential, but Karl–Anthony Towns is THE MAN! Towns was second among rookies (behind Boban the Great) with a Player Efficiency Rating of 22.59 and led all rookies in Estimated Wins Added at 15.7.
Towns also led all rookies in scoring, rebounding, field goals made and double-doubles. K.A.T. was a phenomenon on the court. He was also in consideration for the Western All-Star Team this year.
There’s not much more I can say about him other than “pure excellence.”