The NBA draft takes place Thursday night and it’s an exciting time (most of the time) for most teams looking to add fresh blood to their roster. If you’re a Wizards fan, the draft is both exciting and terrifying, but probably more so terrifying given the nightmares of Kwame Brown, Jan Vesely, Oleksiy Pecherov, and the overall draft strategy (?) of general manager Ernie Grunfeld.
There’s no rhyme or reason to what you’re about to read, other than it consists of tidbits and opinions from a Wizards fan. Potential here, bust there, and weird stuff in between — we’ll refer to it as a superlative list of sorts for the 2015 NBA draft class.
Getting to Know the Euros
There’s two guys getting most of the attention and they’re near locks to be top-10 picks.
Kristaps Porzingis — a 7’1″ lights-out shooter from Latvia who enters the draft at just 19 years old. Plenty of teams will fall in love with Porzingis’ combination of length and shooting range, with concerns about his strength and ability on defense. He has the potential to be something special and everything rests on his development.
Mario Hezonja — a prototypical wing player (6’8″) with the ability to do a little bit of everything. Hezonja can shoot it from anywhere, he can guard other wings, and the Croatian has some swagger to him too. Of the two most-talked about Euros, Porzingis may have the highest ceiling, but Hezonja probably has the higher floor.
Most Likely to be a Stud
I’m good with putting a few guys in this category, including the obvious.
Karl-Anthony Towns — my No. 1 guy in this draft if someone were crazy enough to put me in charge of an NBA franchise, Karl-Anthony Towns has the size, the defense, and the passing ability to be a stud big man; and he comes with (what’s likely to be) very marketable initials that could easily transform into the nickname Big KAT. Hello, intangibles.
Jahlil Okafor — some people like to get on Jahlil Okafor because of his defense (me, kind of), and others like to get on Jahlil Okafor because he hails from Duke (definitely me), but he’s still a 20/10 guy at the next level. There’s a little concern regarding the rumors about his commitment and passion for the game, but that sort of thing isn’t necessarily fact. He’s a powerful body with all the tools to consistently score in the low post and he has prototypical size for the center position.
D’Angelo Russell — I heard Jay Bilas call D’Angelo Russell the best pure basketball talent in this draft, and I don’t think that’s so much of a bold statement as it is a true one. Point guards are so damn valuable in this league and Russell offers (a lot of) something in every category. He can score, he has size (6’4″), he has handles, he’s a brilliant passer, he has ice water running through his veins, and — oh yeah — he’s only 19 years young. It may take him a little while to adjust to the lead guard role at the next level, but Russell’s a stud.
Stanley Johnson — us East-coasters really didn’t get to see enough of Stanley Johnson last season, but his versatility is a lot of fun to watch. At 6’6″, 242 pounds, Johnson has great size for the wing and can defend everything from two-guards to small bigs, not to mention a jumpshot on the opposite end that demands respect. Johnson is the complete package, from athleticism, to size, to offense, to defense, and he’s still only 19 years old with plenty of room to grow. He’ll be around a while.
Myles Turner — maybe I’m in the minority with this one, maybe not, but with all the NBA discussion about stretching the floor and the value placed on bigs who can stray away from the paint and demand respect for their outside shot, Myles Turner is a name we should all talk about more. He’s every bit of 6’11” with room to build, his offensive game is some of the best in this year’s center class, he has an outside shot with tons of promise/potential, and he’s strong on defense, averaging nearly three blocks per game as a freshman last season.
No real direction with this segment, but here’s a few dudes I think I like.
Myles Turner — for reasons that were explained earlier. There’s a ton of intrigue here and his potential is a great match for the way in which the game is trending.
Terry Rozier — a tough point guard with some do-it-all characteristics, Terry Rozier is a really good athlete with some length and the ability to hurt a defense by way of scoring or passing. There are other names talked about before his in the point guard discussion, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Rozier is eventually one of the better floor generals to come out of this class.
Willie Cauley-Stein — it’s no secret that Willie Cauley-Stein is a one-way player at this point, but his high energy and reliable rim protection warrants a high pick. Not to mention, with his ability to consistently get up and down the floor, WCS makes for an awesome running mate in transition. And one more thing, he legally made his nickname “Trill”…
Sam Dekker — tons and tons of Gordon Hayward comparisons, and I guess that’s accurate. Sam Dekker has good size heading into the NBA, he’s a knockdown shooter, and does a lot of good things on defense. Like Hayward, I wouldn’t expect anything spectacular or demonstrating elite athleticism, but I think Dekker is a solid NBA wing.
Motrezl Harrell — Hustle, board-crashing, muscle, passion, attitude, grit — there’s lots to love about Motrezl Harrell. Although he’s slightly undersized (6’8″) for his power forward position, Harrell has crazy length and more than enough effort. With a re/defined offensive game, we’re talking about Harrell as a lottery guy. Either way, I think he makes lots of money and a long career as a valuable role player in the NBA.
Even if it feels like a huge gamble, it’s the potential reward that moves us to put our doubts aside and turn in the ticket. These are the guys who could push me into ignoring any sort of weakness and instead focus solely on what they could be.
Kristaps Porzingis — is he wowing us with pre-draft workouts a la Yi Jianlian, or could he turn out to be something like a Gasol-witzki? Kind of a big difference.
Trey Lyles — although nothing stands out as an elite skill, Trey Lyles is a 19-year-old with a solid overall foundation and the potential to become a consistent double-double machine. His defense is pretty meh at the time and he’s not a crazy athlete, but there’s lots of skill to work with on offense.
Kelly Oubre — he’s a guy with the potential to be an awesome 3-and-D wing in the NBA and I’d say that warrants lottery consideration.
Most Likely to be a Late-Round Gem
The criteria here includes fringe first-rounders and guys who are more likely to be chosen in the second round. As a result, that means names that aren’t as familiar.
Luis Montero — he’s 6’7″ with good length, he’s a good passer, and he’s got really good handles. Luis Montero doesn’t have valuable experience at this stage in his career, but his core talent at this point provides the potential. At his peak, he could be a skilled and versatile player.
Justin Anderson — there’s a good chance he goes late-first, but if not, Justin Anderson will be a nice piece to someone’s team. He’s smart, possesses really good athleticism, he’s a worker on defense, and he has the size/build to hang at the next level. Solid do-it-all player, but without the splash and flash.
Olivier Hanlan — he may not offer a whole lot outside of scoring the basketball, but Olivier Hanlan is really really good at scoring the basketball. He enters the league as a effective and legitimate scoring threat.
(Should Be/Hopefully) Wizards Radar
There’s a ton of names I’d like to include here, but No. 19 is a tough spot for the Wizards. It’s too far away from the lottery to capitalize on any fallers, and the team’s not in a great position to trade this and that in order to move here and there (#KD2DC), so it makes for lots of possibilities, and then again lots of non-possibilities.
But for the sake of rooting for certain prospects, here’s a few names (in no particular order) with a chance to land at No. 19 and the potential for them to contribute to Washington’s efforts.
Bobby Portis — has good size for the power forward spot and he has some shooting range to go with it, which would help fill a role for the Wizards. His effort shows up on the glass and he’s got some hustle to his game. If Bobby Portis happens to be there, the pick makes a lot of sense.
Frank Kaminsky — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Frank Kaminsky go in the top-10, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if he fell a bit. At 7’1″ and the range to get it done, Frank the Tank is a stretch-big well worth consideration.
Kelly Oubre — I’ve seen him as high as the lottery in some places, and in the 20’s in others, so Kelly Oubre is on this list. Although he may not be the specific position the Wizards are looking for, Oubre has too much potential (perhaps even star potential) to pass up.
Terry Rozier — the Wizards are in need of a backup point guard and Terry Rozier can do just about everything you ask of him. He’d also give the team some offensive spark off the bench with his ability to not only drive the paint, but also knock down the three.
Jerian Grant — sticking with backup point guard prospects, Jerian Grant is a local kid that can step in right away and provide the team valuable minutes. He has the size, he has the athleticism, he can score, and he has the length to defend. It feels safe.
Montrezl Harrell — whenever I watched Motrezl Harrell last season, I thought about him running alongside John Wall on a fastbreak and throwing down insane dunks. And while that would certainly work for the Wizards, Harrell doesn’t really provide the ideal offensive game for this team. That said, there’s always room for a passionate player with non-stop hustle, rebounding talent, athleticism, length, and the ability to defend.
Happy Draft Night!