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: 1) — So besides playing out of his mind during the regular season, KAT now has a Skills Competition trophy to add to his collection. It was the first year bigs were in the contest and the 7-foot, No. 1 overall pick took the cake. The sky continues to be the limit (as proved to literally be the case for his teammate Zach LaVine later on in the night).
2. Kristaps Porzingis (last ranking: 3) — Maybe I overreacted bumping Porzingod down to No. 3. The reality is, when you watch him play he’s just as special as Towns. KAT seems more developed at the moment, especially on the defensive side, but these are two future studs we’re talking about here. There’s no wrong answer when it comes to which one you’d pick to start a franchise.
3. Myles Turner (last ranking: 2) — Turner is a tier below Towns and Kristaps, but his ceiling is really just as high five years down the road. He’s a great shot blocker with the ability to step out and shoot. He’ll never have the range Porzingis does or the skill set Towns possesses, but Turner does have plenty of areas he can improve and be an All-Star.
4. Devin Booker (last ranking: 4) — Booker just keeps proving how legit he is. The kid is still so young and putting up really solid numbers lately for Phoenix. But get him in his element like the Rising Stars game and the 3-point Shootout and he looks even more comfortable. Give him some time and Booker easily has Klay Thompson potential.
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (last ranking: 7) — The Rising Stars game was really helpful for these rankings because you get to see most of these guys compete on the same floor together. Mudiay clearly stuck out at the best PG in his class going for 30 points and 10 dimes. He showed the ability to knock down the 3 with confidence, find his teammates and get to the rim as one of the more physically imposing guards in the league.
6. Jahlil Okafor (last ranking: 5) — Okafor is a great low post scorer, which still has value, but the league is trending in the direction of the Towns-type big holding far more value. Okafor’s numbers are likely boosted since he’s playing in Philly. Once we saw him on the same floor with his counterparts, it was clear he’s not quite on their level.
7. D’Angelo Russell (last ranking: 9) — Russell has been bottle up by the Lakers coaches so far this season, but he got to show what he can do in the Rising Stars game. His 3-pointer needs more work that I thought when he entered the draft, but he’s shown all the signs that he can fix that. I feel like the grade on all the young Lakers is incomplete until we see them play Kobe-less next season. That’s when we really find out who they are.
8. Stanley Johnson (last ranking: 8) — Things aren’t going Johnson’s way of late despite playing really well. He got snubbed from the Rising Stars game, and now the Pistons have made a move to add Tobias Harris at the trade deadline. Johnson has a really bright future, but we may not see much of it the rest of this season.
9. Justise Winslow (last ranking: 6) — Winslow’s game has been developing nicely for Miami. He hasn’t put up huge numbers, but the Heat really count on his defense. Offensively Winslow is a project, but his scoring is on the rise. With the unfortunate news surrounding Chris Bosh, Justise may be called upon to play more the rest of the way.
10. Mario Hezonja (last ranking: N/A) — On the other side of the Harris trade Hezonja figures to finally be let loose. Don’t forget this guy is a super athlete and a great shooter — which is why he was the No. 5 pick last June. He’s been improving over the last month and showed it in the Rising Stars game where he nearly went for a triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
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