By now 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 that had to be left out of the top-10 — which makes it an important season for rookie rankings!
1. Karl-Anthony Towns (last ranking: 2) — I can’t remember the last time a big man with just one year of college experience had such a strong rookie season. KAT averaged nearly 17 points and 11 boards for the month of January, adding on 2.2 assists and 1.6 blocks. I recently made him my top center in my weekly position rankings, so he obviously tops the rookie rankings.
2. Myles Turner (last ranking: 9) — This kid has been incredible since returning from injury. Turner’s taken advantage of every minute he’s had on the floor, and now the Pacers are making a point of featuring him. He broke out in mid-January with 25 points and seven boards against the Nuggets. Then Turner went for 31 and eight at Golden State soon after. On Monday he notched his first career double-double with 14 and 10 against the Cavs, also rejecting LeBron at the rim three times. The future is bright for Turner.
3. Kristaps Porzingis (last ranking: 1) — Porzingis has been a little banged up lately, but that’s his biggest knock. He truly is amazing to watch pull up from three feet behind the arc at his size, and then reject a shot at the rim on the other end. As ‘Staps adds weight and gains knowledge, it’s hard to see him not becoming a superstar.
4. Devin Booker (last ranking: 7) — With all the injuries in Phoenix, the youngest player from the 2015 draft class is being forced into a huge role. Booker scored in double-digits in all but one game in January — a month where he averaged 33.6 minutes, 17.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 helpers. Kid can ball.
5. Jahlil Okafor (last ranking: 3) — Okafor is the best low post scorer in this rookie class, but he lacks a lot of the elite skills the bigs I ranked above him have. In other words, he’s worse on the defensive end and can’t shoot jumpers. There’s still a lot of value in having a guy like Okafor you can dump the ball down to for a bucket, though.
6. Justise Winslow (last ranking: 5) — Winslow gets a boost because he’s helping a good team win games. His stats don’t jump off the page, but he’s been productive with more minutes recently. Over his last six games, Winslow’s been playing 30+ minutes and averaging 9+ points and 7+ boards. But most importantly Justise is Miami’s lockdown perimeter defender.
7. Emmanuel Mudiay (last ranking: N/A) — Mudiay fell off the map when he missed some time, but it feels like he’s returned to form. He averaged 12.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 5.5 dimes in January after returning on the 10th vs. Charlotte. At his size, he can be a very tough matchup at PG if he limits his turnovers.
8. Stanley Johnson (last ranking: N/A) — Johnson has had an inconsistent season, but his talent is clearly special. He’s averaging nearly 15 points over his last four games, and Johnson has finally carved out a nightly role with Detroit. Many compare him to Winslow, but it’s clear Johnson is much further ahead on the offensive side.
9. D’Angelo Russell (last ranking: 4) — Russell is very difficult to gage because there are so many variables surrounding him. The coaches don’t trust him, so he never plays huge minutes, and Russell is still very inconsistent himself. The talent is obvious, though. If he reaches his potential, he can still be a top-3 player in this draft.
10. Willie Cauley-Stein (last ranking: N/A) — WCS missed time with an odd hand injury, but has been playing very well as a starter alongside Boogie. Like Winslow, he’s not a great scorer, but Cauley-Stein is a defensive anchor who does a little bit of everything. WCS feels like he has Tyson Chandler-type potential to me.
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