It seems like NBA rookies are making a lesser impact each season. It also seems that more players are coming out of college after just one season than ever before. I do not blame these players, as they should try to get paid as soon as the system allows them to. After all, they are basically being used in college, generating tons of revenue for their university, while getting little in return.
So while I do understand the one and done from a player perspective, it has hurt the NBA from a basketball standpoint. Rookies that are not physically ready for the NBA are joining the league and it has hurt the product. Just think if Andrew Wiggins stayed in college an extra year or two. His game would have been much more polished coming into the NBA and I bet he would be better than he is today for it.
As a result of these players entering the league too soon, we are seeing players failing to live up to their draft status. There are of course some instances where players are living up to expectations and showing star potential. This article will look at the 2015 draft and show 8 players failing and 7 living up to expectations.
15 Failing - Cameron Payne
Although I did not expect Cameron Payne to be a star, I did think he would be a good player on a good team. I especially thought he was going to make a big impact for the Oklahoma City Thunder this year. Unfortunately for Payne, injuries slowed him down and he was traded to Chicago before he even really had a chance to play as Westbrook's backup.
A similar situation occurred in Chicago. Payne was not even able to accumulate much playing time, which is pretty telling considering the Bulls were desperate at the point guard sport for much of the year. So far, Payne has not lived up to his number 14 overall selection and he better turn things around soon or he will be out of the league altogether.
14 Living Up - Frank Kaminsky
I never expected Frank Kaminsky to be a star. I still do not expect him to be a star. I also was not sure how his college game was going to translate to the NBA. He was one of those players that was really good in college, but you do not expect them to be at the same level in the NBA.
However, Kaminsky has been a pleasant surprise to me, so far in his NBA career. He has earned tons of minutes and took a huge step up in his development this latest season. He was one of the first players off the bench for Charlotte and some games provided instant offense. In total, he averaged around 12 points per game and has shown he belongs in the NBA. If Kaminsky is able to get his points per game up to 15, he is going to get paid when his contract is up.
13 Failing - Rashad Vaughn
Milwaukee sure could have used another piece in their first round series against the Toronto Raptors this post-season. One person that could have been is top 20 pick Rashad Vaughn. Coming into the NBA, Vaughn was known for his play-making and shooting touch. This has yet to help him contribute on the NBA level. Vaughn has shown some flash by scoring 22 points and six three pointers in one game, but other than that, he has not done much. Vaughn has had a hard time getting on the court, only playing in 41 games in 2016-17. If Vaughn wants to prove he belongs in the NBA, next year is a big year for him.
At the end of the day, maybe Vaughn is a late bloomer. Right now, it is looking like the Bucks should have went in a different direction with their draft pick.
12 Living Up - Willy Hernangomez
This may be a surprising selection to many, but if you watched the the Knicks towards the end of the season, it was hard not to notice Willy Hernangomez. Star? Maybe not, but the second round pick has shown the ability to be a quality starter and maybe the future front court partner of Kristaps Porzingis.
On the offensive end, Hernangomez makes the game look easy. He can score with his back to the basket, and step out for a jumper. He is also good at finishing at the rim. Rarely does he bring the ball down or hold on to it too long, which is an excellent quality for a big man to have. I think Hernangomez needs to improve his foot speed a little bit and he will notice a big improvement in his game.
11 Failing - Stanley Johnson
Ever since Stanley Johnson said he had LeBron right where he wanted him, it has all been downhill. Why would a young player like Johnson, who has proven nothing at the NBA level, even open his mouth, especially when his team was losing the series. To be fair to Johnson, there have been stretches where he looks worthy of the eighth overall pick. He can defend multiple positions and has shown that he is not afraid of the moment, something we are seeing far too much of from NBA players nowadays.
However, the entire body of work shows Johnson has been a disappointment. Statistically, he took a major step back in his sophomore season. After averaging close to eight points per game in his rookie year, Johnson fell off to four in his second year. As a result, Johnson saw his playing time cut.
10 Living Up - Norman Powell
Another second round pick to make the list. Norman Powell has shown the ability to be a very good player in the NBA and perhaps even a star, if he were on another team. Powell is a great defender, he can score the ball, and his overall athleticism is something that helps his overall game. Powell is also a great professional. There are games where he plays 30 minutes and is effective, yet for the next four or five games he does not even touch the court. However, we have never heard Powell complain about this and that is why it is easy to root for him.
The main problem for Powell is that he is stuck behind DeMar DeRozan on the depth chart and that is not going to change anytime soon. The Raptors have tried to put Powell at the three, but he is just too undersized to play the position. For now, I can see Powell being a great emergency starter, and one of the top sixth men in the NBA.
9 Failing - Emmanuel Mudiay
I expected so much more from Emmanuel Mudiay. I really thought he was going to be a great player in this league, but so far, he has been a huge disappointment. Of course he has time to turn it around because he is young, but there is just something missing when you watch him play.
To be fair, Mudiay has shown some promise, but overall he has not been consistent enough to justify his draft status. The Nuggets thought they had their point guard of the future in Mudiay, but he was not even able to stay ahead of aging veteran Jameer Nelson on the depth chart. In fact, it got so bad for Mudiay that he was registering DNP's this past season. If Mudiay isable to become the player he was supposed to be, this solves a lot of the Nuggets problems. They would instantly become a playoff team and one of those teams to look out for in the future. I just do not see it happening with Mudiay.
8 Living Up - Myles Turner
I did not know who Myles Turner was until the Indiana Pacers took on the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 playoffs. When I saw Turner play for the first time, I was immediately impressed. You would think he was a five year veteran and not a rookie by the way he played. He was not afraid of the moment and was probably Indiana's second best player after Paul George. Turner has a good offensive game. He is able to finish in traffic and also step outside to shoot jumpers. If he is able to take another step back and add a consistent three pointer, he will be lethal in a few years.
The next step for Turner is to work on his quickness and overall defense. Turner has the potential to be a star, and with Paul George likely leaving soon, expect it to happen sooner than later.
7 Failing - Willie Cauley-Stein
I blame the Sacramento Kings for Willie Cauley-Stein's struggles more than Stein himself. Why? Well first of all, it is the Sacramento Kings, one of the worst organizations in sports and there is no way Cauley-Stein should have been drafted as high as he was in the first place. Yes, he was known as a very good defensive player coming out of college, but his offensive game was and still is very limited.
The Kings also have made it hard for Cauley-Stein to develop with their need to change coaches what seems like every six months. Any young player would struggle to develop in an organization like this. Overall, there is still time for Cauley-Stein to turn things around and he should have a greater opportunity with DeMarcus Cousins out of the mix.
6 Living Up - Kristaps Porzingis
Remember on draft day when many Knicks fans were pissed that the team had just selected Kristaps Porzingis? Well, Porzingis has sure proven all of those doubters wrong and easily remains Phil Jackson's best move as President of the Knicks. Porzingis has Dirk like potential and I expect him to take a major step in his development next season. This step will be even bigger if the Knicks no longer have Carmelo Anthony on their team, as this will open up the lead dog role for Porzingis.
Overall, the main issue I see with Porzingis is the dysfunctional franchise he plays for. I think Porzingis would have been even better by now if he was not surrounded by all of the drama in New York. Hopefully, this changes and we get to see Porzingis become the player he should be. Remember, this is a seven plus footer that can pretty much do anything on the court.
5 Failing - Jahlil Okafor
No one was calling Jahlil Okafor a disappointment after his outstanding rookie season, but a very poor sophomore year can change a lot of minds. After averaging nearly 18 points per game in his rookie season, Okafor saw his production dip to 12 points per game in 2016-17. He also saw other crucial stats such as minutes, rebounds, and blocked shots per game drop.
Yes, of this can be blamed on injuries, as Okafor was slowly brought back into the mix after re-hurting his knee. It can also be blamed on the log jam in the front court of Philadelphia. However, I was expecting Okafor to take a much bigger step in his development this year. Of course it is not too late for him to turn things around, but he has been a disappointment thus far. I do not think 76ers fans should expect Okafor to be a key in their turnaround.
4 Living Up - Devin Booker
Devin Booker is a sensational talent and is already better than I ever thought he would be in the NBA. Any player that can score 80 points in a game is something special, even if Booker's team lost the game. What makes Booker so impressive is that he can score in a variety of ways, whether it is the three point shot, pull up mid range shot, or driving all the way to the bucket, the guy can do it all.
Overall, I expect Booker to continue to improve because he seems to have that old school mentality. It does make sense after all, because Kobe Bryant was his favourite player growing up. The next step for Booker is to turn his team into a winner and rise from star to superstar. It will take a lot, but I think Booker has the drive to do it.
3 Failing - D'Angelo Russell
Although his individual numbers are respectable, I have been very disappointed in D'Angelo Russell so far, mostly for his lack of leadership skills. Yes, he has shown the ability to take over some games. He also has a pretty good scoring touch, can get hot from the three point line, and is very good at getting his teammates involved when he wants to. However, based on the hype Russell has not been good enough, specifically as a leader. Russell comes across as immature and his on court play has been super inconsistent.
Overall, Russell is the perfect example of a player that would have benefited from staying in college an extra year or two. Right now, he is not the leader you want your point guard to be and I think Magic Johnson sees this. Russell will not be a Laker for much longer, in my opinion.
2 Living Up - Karl-Anthony Towns
A no brainer here. Karl-Anthony Towns is already one of the best big men in the game and he is well on his way to becoming the best. Towns can do it all and fits the bill of a "new big" perfectly. He can post up, rebound, block shots, handle the ball, and shoot from the outside. The statistics that this man is already putting up is amazing. He is going to continue to improve and will dominate the league for the next ten years.
People often talk about the Warriors being the dominant team in the West for many years to come because they will have no competition. I say watch out for Minnesota. Along with Andrew Wiggins, Towns will help the Timberwolves form one of the better teams in the NBA for years to come. You heard it here first.
1 Failing - Mario Hezonja
This is a situation that I blame on both player and organization. Mario Hezonja has not been good, but the Orlando Magic have not made it easy on him to succeed. I mean, you used a top five pick on the guy so let him play! It is not like you have a great team and are fighting for playoff position, so you have opportunity to develop your young players. This is just one example of why the Magic continue to remain irrelevant in the NBA world. It is clear Hezonja should have been a greater opportunity to play and grow.
As I said earlier, Hezonja has not been great either. His defense has been poor and he has had consistency issues with his shot. So far, it is clear that Hezonja has been a big disappointment and well on his way to being the biggest bust of this draft.
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