It’s early, but it’s safe to say 2015 gave us a much better draft class than any of us expected. It’s been both top heavy with stars and loaded with talent, which makes it an important season for rookie rankings!
1. Karl-Anthony Towns (last ranking: 2) — KAT has been incredibly impressive lately — enough to crack my weekly position rankings at center. He’s just one of many rooks this year who are developing way ahead of their projections, but he’s no doubt at the head of the class. Towns is already becoming one of the most diverse bigs in the NBA.
2. Jahlil Okafor (last ranking: 3) — Things got messy for Okafor in the wake of his well documented Boston street fight. Since returning from his two-game suspension, Okafor has been playing his best ball. He’s as trustworthy a scorer as any rookie in the class.
3. Kristaps Porzingis (last ranking: 1) — Welp, it finally happened. Porzingis hit the rookie wall. I still love Kirstaps long-term and think he’s going to be a great player. However, at 20-years old, adjustments are to be expected before seamlessly putting together a strong NBA season. He’s currently playing less minutes and having a much tougher time scoring (including a goose egg in 19 minutes vs. Portland).
4. Justise Winslow (last ranking: 4) — Winslow is playing the largest role of any rookie who’s going to make a postseason impact. When Miami makes the playoffs, it’s Winston that’s going to be given the task of shutting down opposing wings. That can’t be overlooked.
5. D’Angelo Russell (last ranking: 7) — Russell is playing very well when he gets his opportunities. The Lakers may not give him many, but when he plays 30+ minutes, Russell is practically a different player. Obviously, much of it is a product of more minutes, but it feels like he can be that player every game if the coaches ever trust him.
6. Nikola Jokic (last ranking: 9) — Jokic isn’t going to be a star, but he’s preforming very well for the Nuggets. He’s playing 20+ minutes, is an efficient scorer and rebounder and can also provide some shot blocking.
7. Stanley Johnson (last ranking: 8) — More consistency would be great (you honestly never know what you’re going to get from this kid), but Johnson deserves to be a top rookie just based on the potential he does show from time to time. When he does play 30+ minutes, Johnson averages 18.3 points and 8.0 boards. Those nights are just tough to predict, though.
8. Kelly Oubre Jr. (last ranking: N/A) — Otto Porter has been beat up for a little while, and now Bradley Beal is missing some time for the Wiz too. In his last four games, Oubre has been earning the minutes and playing well. Over that span he’s scoring 10.5 points and grabbing 4.5 boards — something not many rookies are doing right now.
9. T.J. McConnell (last ranking: N/A) — It’s all about opportunities and Philly is giving a huge one to McConnell. His versatility in limited minutes has been impressive. He can do a little bit of everything, enough to the point where this early in his career, it fees like he should stick around in the league.
10. Frank Kaminsky (last ranking: N/A) — Kaminsky isn’t lighting the world on fire or anything here, but he’s quietly filling in nicely for Al Jefferson. He’s becoming a better scorer, rebounding well, and even blocking some shots. He’s improved his game in December as much as any rookie.
Key injuries: Emmanuel Mudiay and Willie Cauley-Stein.
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