Bigs are back! Karl-Anthony Towns goes 1st, Satnam Singh goes 52nd, & #IndiaBasketball history is made
The NBA got a whole lot bigger yesterday.
With the first pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky, a talented 6-foot-11 big man with promises to finally take the team back to the playoffs after 11 years.
With the 52nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected Satnam Singh Bhamara from India, a 7-foot-2 project who is likely to take a few years to develop into his full potential. But his selection made history as he became the first Indian citizen to be drafted into the NBA.
And in between the two bigs, there were a whole lot of other interesting, infuriating, exciting, and disappointing selections – many of them surrounding other big men entering into the NBA. These bigs came in many forms: from post-beasts to stretch shooters, including Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzignis, Willie Cauley-Stein, Frank Kaminsky, Myles Turner, and Trey Lyles in the lottery.
The trend to go big in this draft bucked the direction of the NBA, where a lot of new-generation teams have been focusing on getting smaller, quicker, and more perimeter-oriented. With the addition of many new big talents, it seems like that some of the ‘size balance’ will be restored.
Here is my quick analysis of the top 14 lottery picks at the 2015 NBA Draft:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns – The Timberwolves took no risks by taking the consensus best player in the draft – Towns – with the number 1 pick. Towns from Kentucky – immediately boosts Minnesota’s young team with an amazing frontcourt presence on both ends of the floor. With Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio as the team’s other two centrepieces and veteran Kevin Garnett advising off the bench, this core could help Minnesota end their 11-year playoff drought.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: D’Angelo Russell – It was a sort of a mild surprise for the Lakers to get Russell at number 2, but the combo-guard will immediately add some swagger and confidence to the LA backcourt. With more free agency and trade rumours in the air, it seems that the Lakers are going to be making some more big changes to their roster this off-season.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor – So you have Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid on your roster already, and Croatian Dario Saric on the way, and what do you do on draft day? If it’s Sam Hinkie, you pick another big! To be fair, 76ers can’t be blamed for going for the best available player in this situation, as Okafor is a gifted big man and could be a superstar someday. But they’ll need to clear the clutter of bigs in their frontcourt. Embiid may miss a lot more time and either he or Noel might be on their way out of Philly sometime soon. #TrustTheProcess.
4. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzignis – The loudest boos of the night – by the hometown New York crowd – were reserved for the Knicks pick Porzignis from Latvia. An unknown project who last played for Sevilla in the Spanish League, Porzignis’ draft value skyrocketed over the last few weeks, and somehow, he finds himself being hated by the Knicks’ faithful even before he gets a chance to prove himself. Porzignis wants to turn those boos into cheers and help the troubled Knicks succeed again. The best-case scenario for this big is to become like Dirk Nowitzki; the worst-case is Yi Jianlian. It will take some years to see which way he tilts.
5. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja – The Magic have a lot of defensive players on their team and they need a shooter. So they do the right thing on draft night and snag themselves the best shooter available. Hezonja has star potential and he will be very valuable to the Magic from Day One, helping to spread the floor for Elfriid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic.
6. Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein – Does anyone know what Vivek Ranadive and the Kings are planning to do anymore? While rumours swirl that they may either part with their Head Coach (George Karl) or their star player (DeMarcus Cousins), they go ahead and pick another player to clog the middle next to Cousins in Cauley-Stein from Kentucky. Theoretically, a Cousins-Stein partnership could work, as the former is an offensive maestro and the latter could become a solid post defender. But when it comes to Sacramento Basketball, no one is sure what the reality will be by the time the season begins.
7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay – From Congo to America to China to Denver. The athletic guard Mudiay fell into the arms of the Nuggets at seven, most likely signalling the end of Ty Lawson’s tenure as the team’s leading point guard. This is a young, malleable team, but Mudiay brings an athletic, talented, and confidence new facet for the future.
8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson – Johnson is a solid defender at the small forward position, and for his intensity and athleticism, may grow to become a fan favourite in Detroit. There are still many questions about his overall skill level, and under the wrong system, this pick could become a bust.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Frank Kaminsky – ‘Frank the Tank’ was the NCAA Player of the Year, and his successful season in Wisconsin helped propel him to the top 10 of the draft. He will add another offensive dimension for Charlotte, a team desperately in need of scoring options.
10. Miami Heat: Justice Winslow – Considered by many to be the biggest scoop of the draft: The Miami Heat – already loaded with talent – stumbled upon an absolute steal with the athletic and defensive-minded small forward Winslow at 10th place. He should be able to fit in and contribute right way for the Heat. If Miami are able to retain the core of Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and Goran Dragic, expect them to become one of the top teams in the East next season.
11. Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner – Rumours have been swirling for a while now that the Pacers relationship with center Roy Hibbert has reached its conclusion. Turner – a 7-footer – could provide an immediate replacement if Hibbert goes or a strong backup if Hibbert stays. He’s a good rebounder and solid mid-range shooter for his size.
12. Utah Jazz: Trey Lyles – Lyles became the third big man from Kentucky and third of fourth overall player from the Wildcats to go in the lottery. He’s got decent offensive skills and will start his career as a backup to Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert in Utah.
13. Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker – The fourth and final member of Kentucky’s star-studded team to be chosen in the lottery, Booker is a strong shooting guard and was one of the best shooters available. The Suns have a lot of guards already but Booker’s range may help him break into the starting lineup quicker, especially for a team that loves to go small.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Cameron Payne – Because he didn’t attend any of the top universities or make his name internationally, Payne was a bit of an underrated project. But the 6-2 player considers himself to be the best point guard in the draft and will have a chance to prove it starting as Russell Westbrook’s backup for the Thunder. Out of all the lottery picks, Payne might end up playing the biggest role come playoffs time, as a healthy OKC will be one of the favourites to make a strong run for the 2016 title.
There were a lot of other great picks in the rest of the First Round, several trades, and many more questionable selections by the 76ers. But it wasn’t until Pick number 52 that India was awakened into a new era in their basketball history.
The Mavericks chose Satnam Singh Bhamara, and he immediately began to trend in India and worldwide on Twitter. Satnam is still a work in process and will likely spend a lot of time in the D-League (Mavericks affiliate Texas Legends) before he is good enough to get impactful minutes in the NBA. But his selection is a low-risk, high reward pick for Dallas at 52, as they will definitely gain a large fan following in India and hopefully, one day gain a solid big man to contribute to their future.