The NBA has started to shift towards a new generation of players. Veterans such as Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are fading away from the spotlight of super stardom, and exciting young players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. The NBA draft is always a great place to find the next big time batch of talent for the next generation. The draft always provides teams with young talented players, but also there are always young prospects that do not live up to the hype surrounding them. This is especially true of prospects that are selected in the top five of their draft class. Throughout the years we have seen our fair share of talented players selected in the top five of the draft like an Anthony Davis or a Kevin Durant.
The amount of busts that come out of the top five of a respective draft class is also all too common. Players such as a Jan Vesley who shined overseas, and showed real potential, never amounted to anything in the NBA. It seems like recently a lot more busts have been selected high in the draft, and this is because a lot of players are drafted based on their potential. A player that struggled in college, but has incredible upside is often over drafted, and does not live up to their billing. This leads to players that performed at a high level in college being under drafted. This sometimes leads to players drafted later to be steals in the draft on occasion. The usual landing spot for the top talent that is presently in the NBA is in the top five of the draft. We are going to evaluate the stars and busts, and rank the top five players drafted in the 2013,2014, and 2015 draft classes.
15 Anthony Bennett
Anthony Bennett may go down in the history books as the biggest bust in NBA history. He currently is unemployed, and began the season on the Toronto Raptors, his third team in his three-year career. Originally he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, and then traded to the Timberwolves. For Bennett’s career he has only averaged four points and three rebounds a game. Coming out of UNLV, Bennett certainly was seen as a top prospect in the 2013 NBA draft, but not many expected him to be selected first overall. It may be best for Bennett to explore the NBA Developmental League for an opportunity to make it back to the NBA level.
14 Joel Embid
It definitely would be plausible to rank Joel Embid at the bottom of this list. Embid has yet to register a single minute in the NBA thus far. As an avid Sixers fan, I have went to the games early to watch Embid shoot around, and do drills. Every fan in that arena finds themselves wide eyed when watching Embid do these drills. The seven footer can shoot lights out from anywhere inside the three point line, and has the capability of knocking down threes consistently. Embid has tremendous upside and potential. If that potential is reached to the fullest, Embid could easily find himself sitting at the top of this list in the future.
13 Mario Hezonja
Mario Hezonja was a highly touted prospect in the 2015 NBA draft. No one really knew much about Hezonja, but numerous YouTube videos provided fans with a glimmer of what his game is all about. Hezonja not only can hit the three at a steady rate, but he also has the athleticism to get to the basket and finish strong. Unfortunately the NBA game has not been as good of a transition as Hezonja thought it would be. Hezonja has only managed to get 17 minutes of playing time a game. Due to this low amount of playing time, Hezonja has only managed to average six points and two rebounds per game.
12 Dante Exum
Dante Exum was also a mystery coming into the NBA from Australia. He looked like an extremely athletic and tall point guard. At six feet six inches, Exum looked like he would be able to give many NBA point guards mismatch problems on offense and defense. Many people were befuddled when the Utah Jazz selected Exum simply due to the fact they already had a young point guard in Trey Burke. Exum as a result played the shooting guard position, but he only shot 35% from the field in his rookie season.
The point guard position may have better helped Exum to play more comfortably. Sadly Exum was injured before the start of the 2015-16 NBA season, and pronounced out for the entire season. Exum in his rookie season averaged five points and two assists per game.
11 Cody Zeller
Cody Zeller has not proven to be a star in the NBA, but he has been a good fringe starter/role player for the Hornets. Some say Zeller was over drafted when the then Bobcats selected him in the top five. Regardless of whether he was over drafted or not, he was an outstanding college basketball player at Indiana. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo propelled Indiana deep in the NCAA tournament, and this helped Zeller’s draft stock. The Hornets rely on Zeller defensively, and he gets a block and a steal every game. Cody Zeller averages nine points and six rebounds per game in the 2015-16 NBA season.
10 Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon’s short career may be underwhelming so far, but he may have hit a turning point quite recently. The 2016 All Star festivities put Gordon on the map of up and comers in the league. He electrified his audience participating in the dunk contest. Many thought Gordon was worthy of first prize, but he put on a show that no one will forget. Since the All Star weekend, Gordon has started to get much more playing time. The Magic even traded recently signed Tobias Harris to carve out playing time for the young man. Gordon is now averaging 9.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, but these numbers should go up next year as he gets more playing time.
9 Otto Porter
Many people thought that Otto Porter was a bust after a rookie season that saw him ride the bench. The Wizards were a good team that year, and had depth at his position. Porter played well in the 2015 NBA playoffs, and as a result has seen his playing time increase dramatically in the 2015-16 NBA season. Defensively his length disturbs whoever he is guarding. Offensively Porter can slash to the basket efficiently, and can also hit an outside jump shot at a regular rate. Otto Porter has averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game this season, and these numbers should improve into next season.
8 Alex Len
This may seem like a high ranking for Alex Len, who also looked like he may be a bust after his first season. Alex Len now gets ample playing time, and that has allowed him to grow as a basketball player tremendously. When Tyson Chandler got injured during the 2015-16 NBA season, Len stepped up, and produced better statistics then Chandler was producing. The Suns realized this and traded Markieff Morris to the Washington Wizards. This allowed Alex Len to become a starter, and he has been producing quality play at the center position for the Suns since he has moved to the starting line up. Alex Len is averaging nine points and nearly eight rebounds a game in the 2015-16 NBA season.
7 D'Angelo Russell
D'Angelo Russell has had a good on court rookie season, but not a good off the court rookie season. He recorded his teammate Nick Young talking about cheating on his fiancée with a 19-year-old, and then it got leaked out to the public. Russell may have lost his bro card, but he has had a good rookie year on the court. He started the year off slow. There is no doubt that Russell could be the Lakers point guard of the future if Jordan Clarkson does not resign with the team. D’Angelo Russell is averaging thirteen points, three rebounds, and three assists per game in his rookie season.
6 Jabari Parker
Jabari Parker looked like he would be a candidate for Rookie of the Year in his rookie season, but unfortunately he got hurt early on in the season. This motivated Jabari to come back strong. His team has failed to play great this season, but it has nothing to do with the great play of their second year wingman. Jabari has been one of the few bright spots for the Bucks in an extremely unstable year on the court. Stardom seems to be what is in store for Jabari if he continues to improve his game the way he has done so far. Jabari Parker is averaging 14 points and five rebounds per game so far this season.
5 Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps Porzingis was a great unknown coming into the league from the tiny country of Latvia. Boos rained from the crowd who attended the 2015 NBA draft when the Knicks selected Porzingis above other top college prospects. He has proven the doubters wrong, and has shocked many experts who thought it would take him awhile to get used to the NBA game. Porzingis is an aggressive rebounder defensively and offensively. He can hit three pointers at a rate way above the rate of other seven footers in the league. He also protects the paint very well for the Knicks, and now Porzingis hears cheers for his play every night. Kristaps Porzingis averages fourteen points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game in the 2015-16 NBA season.
4 Jahlil Okafor
Jahlil Okafor has a talent that many big men in today’s game do not possess, and certainly did not have it in their rookie season. That talent is the ability to post someone up with his back to the basket, and score in a variety of ways. Okafor already commands a double team on a nightly basis. His two biggest weaknesses coming into the NBA were his defensive ability and his capability to hit free throws. Okafor still has not proven he is a very good defender, but he is shooting much better from the free throw line in his rookie season at 69% than his collegiate career at Duke. Jahlil Okafor is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds per game in his rookie year in the NBA.
3 Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo is a tweener between a point guard and a shooting guard. He currently plays the shooting guard position, but has more of a point guards build. Oladipo has been productive for the Orlando Magic, and the argument can be made that he is a top ten shooting guard in the NBA. He is quick to the basket, but if defenders lay off Oladipo he is more than capable of knocking down an outside jump shot. The Orlando Magic unfortunately have not been able to achieve much success on the court despite Oladipo’s production. Victor Oladipo contributes 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists per game in the 2015-16 NBA season.
2 Andrew Wiggins
Winless for Wiggins was the moniker prior to the 2014 NBA draft for a few NBA fan bases draft strategy during the 2013-14 NBA season. Andrew Wiggins was being compared to LeBron James talent wise coming into the NBA prior to him playing a game in college. Wiggins underwhelmed a bit at Kansas. He looked passive at times, and many wondered if that would carry over to the NBA. Once Wiggins reached the league he looked as if he was determined to score whenever he had the ball in his hands. Andrew Wiggins is averaging 20 points and almost four rebounds per game this season, and looks to be one of the leagues best scorers for years to come.
1 Karl Anthony Towns
Not many expected Karl Anthony Towns to burst onto the scene in the NBA the way he has. At Kentucky, Towns was part of a rotation, and as a result he did not receive as much playing time as other top prospects around the country. This gave talent evaluators a tough time deciding whether or not Towns would be a productive player right away in the NBA. It's incredible how good Towns has been in his rookie year in the NBA, and he is certainly the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season. Karl Anthony Towns is averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game in the 2015-16 NBA season.