The 2015 NBA Draft is finally over and after a ton of scouting and hype surrounding the top college prospects, we actually now know where they’ll be playing during the 2015-16 NBA season. Now that the player selection is out of the way, we can start focusing on how certain players fit with their teams, what roles they might have and who might end up paying off the quickest.
Players that crush it in year one don’t always turn into superstars with longevity, but early success is usually a good indicator of long-term production, as well. That’s why teams and players pay attention to NBA rookie rankings and Rookie of the Year odds. No official odds for the 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year are out just yet, but we thought it’d be fun to take a look at the top candidates and analyze precisely why they’re a solid bet. There aren’t many, but keep these guys in mind as the season draws near and the second Rookie of the Year odds come out, you’ll be ready to place your bet:
Karl-Anthony Towns, F/C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Probably the best, most complete player in this draft that can play at a high level right now, it’s easy to see why Towns could potentially have the best Rookie of the Year odds. Minnesota definitely has a lot of talent to mix and match in the paint, but no one they have is better than Towns, who can score easily from inside 10 feet and also defends well. Towns should start from day one and see 25-30 minutes. That should put him within striking range of the ROY award and he could even dominate en route to it.
D’Angelo Russell, G, Los Angeles Lakers
Russell is a scorer who is going to be asked to ball as a rookie. Kobe Bryant and whoever the Lakers bring in during free agency should also shoulder a lot of the scoring, but Russell is a versatile guard that can really fill it up offensively and the Lakers would be silly not to ask a lot of him early on. They drafted him #2 overall to be a key cog now and for the future, so he should be in the running for ROY in year one.
Jahlil Okafor, F/C, Philadelphia 76ers
Many people (including myself) felt the Lakers should have taken Okafor, but he lands in a situation with the 76ers that could have him playing monster minutes and crushing from day one. The ugly truth is the Sixers don’t have many proven scorers and Joel Embiid continues to struggle with his health. That’s almost certainly going to put Okafor in as a starter from day one and due to his high offensive ability, he’ll likely see a ton of shots coming his way. Philly can still expect to lose a lot, but Okafor is a strong Rookie of the Year candidate due to how much might be asked of him when it’s all said and done.
Justise Winslow, G/F, Miami Heat
Winslow is my favorite sleeper for the ROY award, but it’s ultimately going to depend on his role and how much the Heat ask of him. If Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and/or Luol Deng leave, he’ll start right away and should get enough work to be a viable ROY candidate. Even if they all stay, he could still be an offensive spark off the bench and have a huge impact. Winslow has an NBA-ready skill-set and he was a beast in just one year at Duke. He has the makings of a solid starter and could even be a star. Whether that’s good enough to make him the 2015-16 Rookie of the Year, of course, remains to be determined.
Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Charlotte Hornets
I’m not entirely sold on Frank “The Tank” but the Hornets seem to be after taking him at the 9th overall spot. Al Jefferson can’t stay healthy, the team dumped Noah Vonleh and they are rumored to be wanting to cut ties with the disappointing Cody Zeller. All of that could lead to a massive role for Kaminsky, who isn’t an athletic freak but is one of the most fundamentally sound players in this draft.
Stanley Johnson, SF, Detroit Pistons
Johnson fell to the 8th overall pick and considering he’s an arguable top-five talent, a small forward-starved Pistons team may have gotten one of the top steals in the draft. Detroit needs his offense and ability to defend, while their need for SF is so great that he could start right away. If that ends up happening, he could be one of the top names to watch in the ROY race.
Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Denver Nuggets
Mudiay is a highlight reel waiting to happen, but we can’t know anything about his immediate future until the Nuggets trade Ty Lawson. If Lawson stays in town, it’s possible we don’t see much of Mudiay at all in his rookie year. That’s doubtful, though, since the Nuggets were reportedly “giddy” to land him seventh overall and will want to begin their rebuilding process as quickly as possible. He has shaky shot selection and needs to work on his jumper, but is otherwise lightning quick and provides flashy passing and excellent penetration skills. If the leading gig is his in year one, he’ll without a doubt be a ROY candidate to keep an eye on.
Kristaps Porzingis, PF, New York Knicks
Porzingis is a tremendous talent but he’s arguably 2-3 years from developing into a true NBA stud. That’s if he even pans out. For his rookie year, the Knicks will ask him to knock down open shots, hand in some big plays with his athleticism and simply work on his game. He’s a dark horse ROY candidate simply because he plays for a bad team that could need him more than we think in his first year. If that happens, he’d have a shot to make a huge impact, but as it stands, fellow Knicks rookie Jerian Grant (although his odds can’t be great) might even be the better pick.
Our Pick: Okafor
It’s tentative with the Rookie of the Year odds not being out yet, but he’s going to start and be asked to do a ton. Other players are in better situations from a pure winning perspective, but he could go out and chase 20 and 10 as a rookie.