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A Live Look Back: The 2015 NBA Draft

Let’s remember an old NBA Draft!

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The past two summers, I did a rewatch of the NBA Draft from four years ago and wrote about it. Four years seems like a pretty good length of time when it comes to determining how a draft actually went, and I’m not the world’s biggest watcher of college basketball, but I still want to contribute in some way to all the pre-draft content that’s out there.

Well, the site I did those on no longer exists, so this year I’m moving it over to Liberty Ballers. In the past, I tried to take a pretty wide look at the entire draft while doing this, and while that won’t completely change with the move over to this site, I will be focusing a little more intensely on the picks that the 76ers made or the picks that affected the 76ers.

Who’d Philly pick in 2015, by the way? I just...can’t remember. It’s like...something has been wiped from my memory. Oh well! We’ll all find out soon!

Setting The Stage

Before I start watching this, I’m going to reach back into the crevices of my brain and see what I remember about this draft.

I was still a couple of years away from joining NBA Twitter and writing about the NBA for real sites, but I was blogging about the league on my own for my real life friends to read, so I paid a lot of attention to this draft.

The Minnesota Timberwolves had the first overall pick, and in my head, I remember there being some discussion about which center they’d draft: if they’d go with Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. Am I remembering that right? I assume when I turn on this ESPN replay, I’ll hear something about that decision if it was still in doubt.

The Sixers had the third pick, plus five second-rounders, because Sam Hinkie really loved to stockpile second-rounders, didn’t he?

The Lottery

1. Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns

Draft number two of the Adam Silver era is underway and it begins with Silver describing how the Warriors won their first title. People booed, but they didn’t boo that much. Back then, I think we still thought “aww, good for the Warriors!” and not “ugh, the Warriors.” (Editor’s Note: We’ve now come full circle, transitioning to “man, I feel terrible that nearly every Warriors player suffered a horrific injury.”)

So, it looks like the main assumption at this point was already that KAT was going to Minnesota, so I guess my memory of the KAT or Jah discussion is either A) faulty, or B) a memory from during the college season, not the draft season.

You can tell by the fact that Jalen Rose has taken like two minutes of Minnesota’s five-minute window discussing what he wore when he was drafted that there are no question marks here. Towns is heading to Minnesota. Wolves didn’t even need the full five minutes here.

(Wow, ESPN was excited for Minnesota getting Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic back. Simpler times for the Timberwolves, when the world was laid out in front of them and they hadn’t yet made the Jimmy Butler trade!)

(Y’all, they showed Towns’ college stats and they were...not as good as I remember them being. Also, he was called an “elite shot blocker” back then, and I mean...he’s been fine in terms of blocks, but I’m not sure I’d use the word elite.)

(A real Jalen Rose quote: “If he can make the Hall of Fame like Patrick Ewing, I’ll take it if I’m the Minnesota Timberwolves.”

Like...Jalen, yes, if Towns is a Hall of Famer, the Timberwolves will be happy.)

2. Los Angeles Lakers - D’Angelo Russell

So, here come the Lakers. While they had a lottery pick the year before, this was the first of their top-five picks. Picking second in the NBA Draft is a chance to set you up for the future, to draft a guy who can be a future All-Star and lead your team to the playoffs. The Lakers...kind of do that with the Russell pick, as he was a future All-Star who led a team to the playoffs. That team just wasn’t the Lakers.

The Lakers were being talked about as a team that could make a lot of free agency moves, including making moves for guys like DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge. Ahh, the perpetual cycle of Lakers gonna be players in free agency takes.

Jalen Rose thought D’Angelo Russell was the right pick here, but the rest of ESPN’s crew thought it was a mistake to pass up on a guy as good as Jahlil Okafor.

*dramatic pause in which all Liberty Ballers readers laugh, and then cry, and then laugh some more*

So, anyway, Russell was the pick, and ESPN immediately started talking about how this was proof the Lakers were about to sign a star power forward to pair with Kobe Bryant and Russell.

A lot of the Russell talk here feels familiar. Good pick-and-roll player on offense, but bad at defending the pick-and-roll. Good passing vision.

(ESPN has some kind of analytic that says Russell has the best chance of anyone in this class — 15 percent — to be a superstar. I wonder what goes into this percentage? He also had a 41 percent bust chance, which was the highest among the top-20 prospects.)

(Jalen Rose going on a rant about how no NBA player should ever be called a “bust.”

So, this puts the Sixers on the clock.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Jahlil Okafor

So, the 76ers had a couple of centers already in Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel, so when I was watching this originally, I didn’t think Okafor was going to be the pick here. I was hoping that Okafor was going to go at two so Russell could fall to the Sixers, because adding the top guard prospect in this draft class made more sense to me than adding another center.

Bilas thought Porzingis could have been a good pick here, but the consensus was that Okafor would be the best pick for the Sixers, especially because Embiid had a “set back” in his injury recovery.

(Before announcing the pick, Adam Silver took a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of analytics legend Harvey Pollack, who spent his career in Philadelphia. Let’s also take a moment to remember Pollack.)

So, Okafor is the selection here. Not a huge surprise, but it does put the Sixers in a tough position where they have a lot of bigs. But even if the fit didn’t make sense, Okafor was thought to be the most talented player on the board at this point. ESPN went as far as saying that he was the big man that the Sixers would be building around instead of Embiid. The Okafor hype was very real here.

Okafor’s biggest strength was his low post scoring and his ability to put the ball on the floor, but there were concerns about defense. Those concerns didn’t deter anyone on the ESPN crew from giving 100 percent praise to Philadelphia for this pick.

Let’s pause this re-watch for a minute. Okafor was the can’t miss guy for the Sixers. He was supposed to be the best of the centers they took over this span. What happened?

Well, the scouts were right that Okafor could score in the paint. Get him the ball near the basket, and there’s a good chance he puts it in. But like a current Sixer — hi, Boban! — Okafor struggles at all the aspects of defense. He can’t defend in the post. He can’t survive in the switch-heavy modern NBA. He’s essentially unplayable on one end of the court, and the Sixers failed to recognize how quickly the game would move away from these kinds of centers when they took him.

(Aww, ESPN went to talk to Jah’s dad and it was so cute. He’s fighting back tears. They just showed video of 15-month-old Jahlil playing basketball. This is literally the cutest thing and I wish Jahlil Okafor had been good.)

Some confirmation here before moving onto the Knicks that the Sixers drafted Okafor to keep Okafor.

4. New York Knicks - Kristaps Porzingis

So, Knicks are up. Names mentioned for who they could take are Justise Winslow, Justise Winslow, and Jay Bilas saying that GMs shouldn’t care about being booed when they make a pick, so of course the pick is Kristaps Porzingis, who the Knicks fans in attendance immediately boo.

This now makes three of the first four picks in this Draft to not be with their original team just four years later. Also, interesting aside that of the past 16 European players to be lottery picks, none had made an All-Star team.

Quote: “In two or three years, you have the potential to have a guy who can be in New York for 12 more years.”

...yeah, about that...

(Aww, a mention of Grantland. I’m sad now.)

5. Orlando Magic - Mario Hezonja

Can we keep this streak of guys being drafted who are no longer with their original team? Yes!

Jalen calls the Mario pick, and — FUTURE SIXERS ALERT — the crew talks a little about how he can replace Tobias Harris, if Tobias Harris leaves in free agency. Tobias Harris has played for so many teams.

Hezonja was called the best shooter in this draft, so of course he turned into a 32.1 percent shooter from deep so far in his career and has two sub-30 percent seasons.

Looked away from the screen for a second and now Jalen is talking about how Chandler Parsons dresses.

6. Sacramento Kings - Willie Cauley-Stein

This pick was where 2015 me went full WE GOT A COUSINS TRADE HAPPENING but...we did not have a Cousins trade happening. The selection of a center made it seem like a deal would be happening very soon, but Cousins would make it another year and a half before being dealt to the Pelicans.

While I’m still a believer in Cauley-Stein, he hasn’t lived up to the hype that I had for him, or that analysts at the time had for him. He was supposed to be an elite defender who could guard anyone from opposing centers to opposing point guards, a guy who seemed like he could be part of this next generation of centers that we’ve seen. Bilas was the realist here, saying this was high for a guy with no offensive game.

He is, though, the first pick since Towns to still be with his original team, though that likely changes this offseason.

Chris Broussard appears to let us know how much George Karl wants to trade Cousins and how the team’s leadership doesn’t, shutting down the idea that this pick signals an imminent Cousins deal.

7. Denver Nuggets - Emmanuel Mudiay

This was such a rough draft after that top two.

Never a good sign to hear about his jump shot “evolving.”

Quote of the night: “There are no Whataburgers in Guangdong.”

This pick also signaled that the Nuggets were setting up to trade Ty Lawson. Was Ty Lawson really in the league this recently? It feels like it’s been centuries since Ty Lawson was a thing.

8. Detroit Pistons - Stanley Johnson

Yeah, we continue to see guys who are still major question marks four years later.

Bilas is literally just using a bunch of meaningless synonyms for “strong” while talking about Johnson.

9. Charlotte Hornets - Frank Kaminsky

Hated this pick at the time. Didn’t think Kaminsky was going to give a team the value you want from a top-10 pick. His Hornets career had some promising signs, but was also largely a failure and is probably over. Kaminsky never really became the knock-down shooter that he was supposed to become.

Jalen compared him to Ryan Anderson. Think he meant that in a good way, but the Andersons and Kaminskys of the world are losing their value in a league where better defensive bigs are able to shoot from outside as well.

10. Miami Heat - Justise Winslow

Winslow was still on the board somehow at this point, but the Heat finally stop his slide here.

Winslow unlocked some things last year for the Heat when the team moved him to point guard for stretches, and he has a chance to still be one of the best players from this class.

Jalen Rose: “He’s going to be better than a few players taken ahead of him.” This is true. Jalen’s had some pretty good takes during this draft.

Aww, talking about Chris Bosh and how having him at power forward is a solid thing for Miami. :(

11. Indiana Pacers - Myles Turner

Turner’s name hadn’t been mentioned at all during ESPN’s coverage until now. Everyone was surprised by Turner getting taken this early. Jay Williams thought the Pacers should have taken Cameron Payne instead.

Cherry-picked stat of the night: “He’s the first Freshman in Division 1 history [who is] 6-foot-10 or taller to make 17 threes and have 89 blocks.”

12. Utah Jazz - Trey Lyles

Trey Lyles was pretty good on NBA Live’s mobile game a few years ago. Let’s just move on to the next pick, since it’s a pretty important one.

13. Phoenix Suns - Devin Booker

Booker is the best player available according to everyone on the set.

Booker falling to 13 feels surprising. Jay Bilas was raving over him, how his shooting was great and he had a lot of defensive upside and how he could be Klay Thompson. Booker had some inconsistency as a shooter at Kentucky, but he had the potential to be the kind of scorer he turned into.

LOL, talk about how he fits with Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight to form a strong backcourt.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder - Cameron Payne

The final lottery pick belonged to the Thunder. This was a team that had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the time, but injuries ended up putting them in the lottery. Nailing this pick could have helped make this team even more competitive when healthy.

Instead, they went with Cameron Payne. Sure, there weren’t any more stars in this draft, but even someone like Kelly Oubre would have helped the team significantly. Instead, Cameron Payne. This did not work out for the Thunder.

The Non-Lottery

*looks down at the word count for this piece*

Well, I’ve written over 2,000 words already, so let’s just skip around and cover the Sixers’ second rounders, because this doesn’t need to end up being 5,000 words.

35. Philadelphia 76ers - Willy Hernangomez

The Sixers didn’t hold onto this pick, instead trading it to the Knicks for two future picks. ESPN is using this as a chance to talk more about Okafor’s fit with Philly. Phrases like “finally, a man in the middle” and “let’s focus on the good” after mentioning and then pushing aside the whole “they have Embiid” thing.

There’s a mention of Hakeem. Of Kareem. Of Tim Duncan. A quote: “Finally, in Philly, something substantial to build around.”

Anyway, Hernangomez got picked. The Sixers fans on screen were happy. There were some good highlights. I don’t remember all the salary implications of keeping him or any of that, but he would have been a good player for the team to keep.

37. Philadelphia 76ers - Richaun Holmes

“Philadelphia back on the clock. You’re going to hear that a lot in the second round.”

...and, commercial break. They come back to show Mark Tatum’s announcement of the Holmes pick. As someone who got a Master’s degree from Bowling Green State University, I was very happy to see Holmes get picked. I also miss Holmes being on the Sixers.

Ahh, here comes a bad Jalen Rose take, as he just starts listing guys who were former Sixers who were playing well for other teams. He doesn’t go as far to say any anti-Process stuff here, but it’s heavily implied.

47. Philadelphia 76ers - Arturas Gudaitis

Another Sixers pick, and I think Mark Tatum said “Seventy-Slixers.”


Anyway, Gudaitis. He was described as a “warm body” and a guy who played above the rim in Europe, but wouldn’t in the NBA. That’s...true, because he has never played in the NBA. And for a guy who never played in the NBA, his trade tree is pretty long:

Four picks and four bigs so far for Philly.

58. Philadelphia 76ers - J.P. Tokoto

Heading into the commercial break before this pick, the whole ESPN crew laughs about how the Sixers still have chances to add more bigs. But...surprise! Lot of talk about Tokoto’s athleticism and his passing. And he was at the draft! He got to go up on stage!

60. Philadelphia 76ers - Luka Mitrovic

Sixers have the final pick and take another stash guy. ESPN didn’t really have time to talk much about Mitrovic, as the broadcast literally ended two minutes after the pick. But in that minute, they talk about Mitrovic as a stretch four who doesn’t actually spread the floor and help with spacing. He ended up being part of that deal that got the Jayson Tatum pick that turned into Markelle Fultz, but he’s not going to see an NBA court anytime soon.

Alright, the 2015 NBA Draft is over and YouTube is trying to autoplay the 2013 NBA Draft. I am...not watching another one of these, y’all.

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