The confetti has fallen, champagne bottles popped, and the Larry O’Brien trophy awarded to the Golden State Warriors. So 31 teams will focus their attention toward how they can eventually reach the heights that the Warriors just did; and it all starts with the draft.
“Championships are built through the draft.” Perhaps no team is a better example of this adage than the Warriors. From a 29-win 2008-2009 season to the dream season that was just achieved, Golden State made a number of key draft choices to help build this juggernaut that was the best team in the NBA this season and had the 7th best point differential in NBA history. Sure, signing Andre Iguodala – and to a much lesser extent, acquiring Andrew Bogut – helped expedite the rebuilding process in the tough Western Conference. But it all started by drafting Stephen Curry (7th overall, 2009), Klay Thompson (11th overall, 2011), and Draymond Green (35th overall, 2012). That continued draft success showed that any team can build a winning team with sustained success early and late in the draft.
Who could be those steals in the middle of the lottery? What about those “Draymond Greens” lurking in the second round? Here are the most underrated and overrated guys in the 2015 NBA Draft:
Underrated: D’Angelo Russell
He’s going to be a top-3 pick, comes from a major college program, and has scouts oozing about his ability. So, how is he underrated? D’Angelo Russell should not just be a top pick in the draft, he should be the top overall pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He carried a talent-deficient Ohio State team to the second round of the NCAA tournament this year, while averaging nearly 20 points, six rebounds and five assists per game as a freshman. He shot 41% from the 3-point line and got to the rim as ease last season despite merely average athleticism. A certain other point guard had questions about athleticism drop him all the way to number seven in the 2009 draft, and he just won himself an MVP. His vision is impeccable and intangible feel for the game is unparalleled in this draft.
A work in progress defensively, Russell will need to become an average on-ball defender in the pros – and there’s no reason to believe he can’t, currently just 19 years old. But you have to match this surefire stud point-guard up with Andrew Wiggins for the next 15 years to create a potentially great backcourt. Splash brother 2.0?
Ceiling: James Harden
Floor: Raymond Felton
Overrated: Jahlil Okafor
Before the Duke mob raises the pitchforks, here me out: Okafor is going to be a good NBA player – a good bench scorer (3rd big) at the very least, likely more. But he is a very limited player. He has a refined post game that feasted on weaker opponents – the Woffords, Buffalos, Boston Colleges, and Virginia Techs of the world – but he really seemed to struggle most against stronger competition. His weaker showings (13 points and six rebounds vs. Wisconsin, 10 points and nine rebounds vs. Virginia, 12 points and 13 rebounds vs. UNC) showed a propensity to struggle against quality defensive big men. But, as Dwight Howard and Deandre Jordan among others have shown, the real key to Okafor’s effectiveness in the pros will be his improvement at the free throw line. His putrid 51% free throw shooting will need to improve significantly.
Sure, there’s a lot to like about him. But with a guy who can’t shoot free throws, struggles in big games, lacks rim protecting ability, and really only has one skill, I simply would not be comfortable taking Okafor in the top five.
Ceiling: Brook Lopez
Floor: Marcin Gortat
Underrated: Justin Anderson
He’s got the build and athleticism to immediately be an above-average NBA defender, and will undoubtedly work to evolve into an average to above-average 3-point shooter. Those “3-and-D” guys are incredibly valuable to any team – just see the contracts that Trevor Ariza and Chandler Parsons got a year ago, and Kawhi Leonard and DeMarre Carroll are in line for this year. He is a sloppy ball handler and not great finishing around the rim (unless it involves his trademark monstrous dunks), but the way the NBA is trending every team cam use a guy like Anderson who will space the floor and shut down their opponents’ best players. He’s going to make a playoff team in the early 20s very happy.
Ceiling: Shane Battier
Floor: Thabo Sefolosha
Overrated: Kelly Oubre
The McDonald’s All-American came into Kansas with the unfairly high expectation that he would immediately replace Andrew Wiggins’s production. He not only failed to do so, but routinely saw the bench in important moments in Kansas’ season. While it was fairly clear that Oubre had raw talent, he could have benefitted greatly from another year at school, putting on muscle and working on his game. Instead, Oubre is in jeopardy of spending much of the year in the D-League, similar to what James Young did this season with the Celtics. For a late first round pick that would be fine, but I would have a hard time taking him before the mid 20s.
Ceiling: Nick Batum
Floor: Out of the league
Underrated: Olivier Hanlan
Playing on a bad Boston College team this past year, Hanlan hardly got the recognition he deserved. Hanlan is a big time player who always showed up in big time games. He dropped 22 against Duke, 30 against UNC, 28 against Notre Dame, and 39 against PITT. Hanlan can do it all – shoot from range, get to the basket, dish to his teammates, grab boards, etc. – he just doesn’t excel in one particular area. He’s not the most athletic player in the draft, but he is crafty and can create his own shot from anywhere on the court. He is a combo guard who will likely be a bench scorer in the league and will probably see more of the off-guard position than run the point.
He struggled when consistently guarding opposing teams’ best perimeter players and will need to improve his perimeter defense in the pros. Ranked in the low 50s by most draft experts, Hanlan should be getting looks in the late first round, early second round range. Bench scoring is always at a premium, and Hanlan will be able to provide it right away.
Ceiling: Jerryd Bayless
Floor: Out of the league
Overrated: R.J. Hunter
As an Atlantan and Georgia State follower this past year it pains me to say this: R.J. Hunter is overrated and will likely be over-drafted as a result. He’s a shooter who shot under 30% from three-point land and under 40% from the field, a go-to scorer who struggled to create his own shot when defenses keyed in on him. We don’t truly know how good of an on-ball defender he is (not great based on the few clues we were given) because Georgia State deployed a 1-3-1 zone most of the season with Hunter at the top. Though improved, his ball-handling and passing are below average and will not be a focal part of his game in the pros. I understand he was the focal point of the offense and teams really only focused on him defensively – even though teammate Ryan Harrow was the conference’s leading scorer – but Hunter took a major step back this season and should not be a first round pick. Klay Thompson 2.0? I just don’t see it.
Ceiling: Luol Deng
Floor: Landry Fields