Pundits viewed the 2015 NBA Draft class as a star-studded group at the time. Guys like Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Kristaps Porzingis, Emmanuel Mudiay and Justise Winslow looked like the future of the NBA.
Five years later, the amount of star power from the group has been underwhelming. However, the class has quality role players in spades. Larry Nance Jr., Norman Powell, Terry Rozier, Richaun Holmes, Kevon Looney, Delon Wright, Willie Cauley-Stein, Tyus Jones and Royce O’Neale are all very useful role players, but none of them made the top 10 in my hypothetical redraft.
So we know who isn’t the top 10 of my redraft, but let’s see which players would make it into that group.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves select C Karl-Anthony Towns
Original pick: C Karl-Anthony Towns
I have concerns about Towns as a franchise centerpiece in the long term. He is not good at all on defense and his constant injuries this season are not a great sign.
His offensive skill set is also a perfect fit for the modern NBA. This season, the 24-year-old center averaged 26.5 points and 4.4 assists per game while draining 3.3 three-pointers per game at an amazing 41.2 percent clip. He is extremely comfortable scoring from anywhere in a half-court setting, and his facilitating has improved significantly.
Minnesota would take Towns No. 1 in this redraft and have no second thoughts about it.
2. Los Angeles Lakers select F/C Kristaps Porzingis
Original pick: G D’Angelo Russell
The Lakers have a storied history marked by several superstar 7-footers: George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol and now Anthony Davis have all starred as big men for the Lakers in the team’s 72-year history.
Could the 7’3” Porzingis have joined that company? His game is definitely more perimeter-focused on offense than any of these guys, but he is still a very valuable player.
Devin Booker and D’Angelo Russell would also be viable selections here for the Lakers. However, both are known for below-average defense and Los Angeles desperately needed some good defense in 2015. Porzingis would be a solid rim protector for Los Angeles while helping the offensive attack tremendously with his feathery shooting touch and length to finish high above the rim.
3. Philadelphia 76ers select G Devin Booker
Original pick: C Jahlil Okafor
In my 2014 redraft, the 76ers picked up guard Zach LaVine to be one of their key offensive initiators. In real life, though, the squad had just drafted big men Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid in consecutive drafts. Philly didn’t have anyone who resembled a capable No. 1 option.
Booker and D’Angelo Russell would both be good selections here, but I like Booker more because he is a tad bigger and finishes much better at the rim, helping his efficiency considerably. Booker also blossomed into a star player earlier in his career than Russell did.
4. New York Knicks select G D’Angelo Russell
Original pick: F/C Kristaps Porzingis
In real life, Russell played two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets. He blossomed in Brooklyn, turning into one of the league’s most dangerous offensive guards. His swagger fits well in the New York environment.
Russell would naturally thrive under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden in New York. In 2015, New York needed a new star to take over for an aging Carmelo Anthony and Russell would be an excellent choice.
5. Orlando Magic select C Myles Turner
Original pick: G/F Mario Hezonja
The Magic were in desperate need of a primary perimeter offensive creator in 2015. Victor Oladipo hadn’t yet blossomed, Tobias Harris hardly facilitated for others and Elfrid Payton wasn’t going to pan out as the franchise point guard.
Unfortunately for Orlando, both Booker and Russell are off the board in this redraft. Thus, the Magic will go with the best available prospect in Turner, doubling down on a defensively-focused team.
Turner isn’t a perfect fit because the Magic already have Nikola Vucevic at center. However, because both guys are dangerous shooters outside the paint and Turner is quite versatile defensively, there is some hope that they could work well together.
6. Sacramento Kings select G/F Josh Richardson
Original pick: F/C Willie Cauley-Stein
The Kings drafting Cauley-Stein to be the power forward next to DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t a horrible idea at the time. However, WCS never improved his skill set enough to be a natural fit as a dependable starting 4 or 5 in the NBA.
Instead, I think Sacramento would benefit tremendously from a very good three-and-D wing in Richardson. The Kings have struggled for so many years partially because they lack the sort of unselfish two-way play that Richardson can provide.
7. Denver Nuggets select F Kelly Oubre Jr.
Original pick: G Emmanuel Mudiay
The best player left on the board is big man Montrezl Harrell, but he is a very poor fit on the Nuggets. At the time of the 2015 draft, Denver had Nikola Jokic and Kenneth Faried on the roster, both of whom are offensive-minded big men. That doesn’t even include Jusuf Nurkic, who struggled to get minutes during his tenure in Denver.
Oubre would be a great fit for the team as a raw prospect who could fit the timeline of the Nuggets’ rebuild. The former Kansas standout has broken out this season with the Phoenix Suns, averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game with a solid 56 true-shooting percentage. He has been quite good on both ends of the floor.
One of Denver’s current weaknesses is size on the perimeter and Oubre’s 6’7” height and 7’3” wingspan can certainly help cure that.
8. Detroit Pistons select F/C Montrezl Harrell
Original pick: F Stanley Johnson
Harrell is not a perfect fit with Detroit’s roster, with big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond already playing such big roles on the team. He is so clearly the best player available that the Pistons would still take him, giving him a couple years to develop before thrusting him into a bigger role.
The 6’7” center will always struggle somewhat on defense and the boards due to his size, but he is an absolute monster setting screens and finishing around the rim. He has shot above 70 percent inside of three feet in each of his five NBA seasons, which is a testament to his athleticism, power and craftiness.
9. Charlotte Hornets select F/C Christian Wood
Original pick: F/C Frank Kaminsky
This is a bold pick, but I can explain. Ever since NBA basketball returned to Charlotte in 2004 after a three-season hiatus, the franchise has been starved for star power. It is a big reason why the team hasn’t won a playoff series in these past 16 seasons.
Gerald Wallace, Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker have all been stars for the team at one point or another, but none of them were true superstars and none of them had the help necessary to lead a high-caliber team.
Wood couldn’t stick with any one team early in his career and has only played 1,828 NBA minutes in total. However, he has star potential that no one else available here can offer. He can score from both the inside and outside and rebound, as shown by his averages of 24 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Pistons in nine games after the 2020 All-Star break.
10. Miami Heat select G/F Justise Winslow
Original pick: G/F Justise Winslow
The Heat would take Winslow again, in spite of his warts. The former Duke standout has been injury-prone and has never developed a proper jump shot, but he is a valuable role player who offers plenty of defense, toughness and solid playmaking with the ball.
Ultimately, though, this says more about how disappointing several other top-10 picks were. None of Jahlil Okafor, Mario Hezonja, Willie Cauley-Stein, Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson and Frank Kaminsky have lived up to their draft status whatsoever.