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. Kristaps Porzingis (last ranking: 2) — Still boo’ing the pick, Knicks fans? Most thought Kristaps was a long-term project that may or may not pan out. Just a month into his NBA career, he’s already Porzingod. This kid is the real deal, and has gotten even better when given more minutes. His potential was on display against the Rockets on 11/21 when he dropped 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks. At 19 years old and 7’3”, his upside is scary.
2. Karl-Anthony Towns (last ranking: 1) — Towns has seen a slight dip in play since his hot start, but Porzingis has just been that good since getting a bump in minutes. In less than 28 minutes per game, Towns is averaging 14.4 points, 9.4 boards and 2.2 rejections. He’s so well rounded on both sides of the ball for his age, and still projects to be a dream duo for the future with Andrew Wiggins.
3. Jahlil Okafor (last ranking: 3) — Okafor has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. But hey, he’s still 19 years old. On the court Okafor has continued to be successful. His post scoring is what really separates him from the rest of the rooks, and actually most of the NBA. His 17.5 points per game were predictable, but he’s been better than I thought on the glass (8.2 boards) and protecting the rim (1.6 blocks).
4. Justise Winslow (last ranking: 5) — From all accounts, Winslow already plays like a veteran. His numbers are still growing, but his impact goes far beyond the numbers. Winslow is playing nearly 30 minutes per game, showing his versatility across the board, but his forte is on the defensive end. He’s already Miami’s best wing defender, and projects to be one of the league’s best in time.
5. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (last ranking: N/A) — RHJ has been a pleasant surprise lately for the Nets. His minutes really started to pick up in mid-November, and his numbers have followed. He’s an outstanding rebounder for his position/size, and ripped down double-digit rebounds five times in November. RHJ really earns his minutes by being active on the boards and locking down on defense (he has two games with five steals recently). The biggest knock on Hollis-Jefferson has been his shooting, which still needs a ton of work. If he ever figures that out, he’s got star potential.
6. Emmanuel Mudiay (last ranking: 4) — Mudiay has shown a ton of potential this season. He’s a big, physical PG that can score at the rim and create his own shot. He also has pretty good vision and is able to use his size to rebound. There’s nothing not to like about his game, but the one major issue he has to take care of are his turnovers, which can come in bunches.
7. D’Angelo Russell (last ranking: 6) — This might be too low for Russell, but I’ll keep him here for now. As his minutes get slightly more consistent, his play has improved. I tabbed Russell as the best player in this draft class when it’s all said and done, so I’m thinking big picture with him. Take this year and learn as much as you can from Kobe if you’re D-Russ, but it’s nice to see his numbers rising across the board in the meantime.
8. Stanley Johnson (last ranking: 7) — Johnson has been hit or miss in the first month of his career, but when he’s on, he shows star potential. He had a career-game Monday against the Rockets tallying 19 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 30 minutes. The trend seems to be minutes with Johnson — when he plays close to 30 minutes or more, he seems to play very well.
9. Nikola Jokic (last ranking: N/A) — Jokic has earned the starting center role with the Nuggets. Ever since his 23-point, 12-rebound breakout that included three blocks against the Spurs, Jokic has been very good for Denver. Jokic is shooting an insane 54.7% from the field on the season, so as long as he remains a productive scorer, he’s going to stay on the floor. His minutes could even begin to rise if he keeps it up.
10. Willie Cauley-Stein (last ranking: 8) — Like Winslow, WCS isn’t producing numbers that are going to make you drool over him — 4.6 points, 5.2 rebounds. With DeMarcus Cousins in and out of the lineup, Cauley-Stein’s minutes have been even more random than the rest of the rookies. He’s not a reliable scorer, but he’s a veteran type presence on defense. I can’t help but see Tyson Chandler when I see WCS play.
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