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The 2015 NBA draft is upon us. It is the night where all teams hope to land the next star player and compete for the NBA championship. The draft is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The last few weeks leading up to the draft have been quite busy. It seems that teams have made more trades and more players have opted out of contracts than in a typical pre-draft off-season. This flurry of activity has affected the draft focus of teams. Here are my top five observations.
2015 NBA Draft: Top Five Observations
In a league that many analysts believe has become more guard oriented, there are a lot of talented big men available in this draft. There still is a need for players that protect the rim and score from the post. By my count, the 30 NBA teams could draft as many as 15 centers and power forwards in the first round. It is a great draft for those teams who are thin on front court players.
Jahlil Okafor’s draft stock has probably fallen more than any other prospect. Okafor played just one season for eventual national champion Duke. Up until March Madness, Okafor was generally considered the consensus number one pick in the 2015 draft.
In the NCAA tournament, Okafor played very well in the first two games. He demonstrated incredible offensive talent in the post and guard-like ball handling skills. Once teams decided to double team Okafor and focus their defense on him, he did not play as well, but he still was the anchor of the offense leading to a national championship.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Okafor has been criticized for his defense (or lack of) and his poor free throw shooting. Most analysts have dropped Okafor’s draft status below Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns. However, in recent days, some reports have ranked Okafor as low as the sixth pick.
While the NBA may be guard dominated, Okafor has natural low post moves that are still very valuable for points when jump shots are not falling for the guards. Remember, Okafor is 19 years old and probably has not received much coaching on defense. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is not known for developing many of his one-and-done players. Jabari Parker improved considerably when he received good coaching for the Milwaukee Bucks.
With some NBA coaching and effort, it does not seem unreasonable that such an athletic player cannot become at least an average defender and a decent free throw shooter. How about Tom Thibodeau coaching Okafor for the Los Angeles Lakers? I think any team with the third to sixth spots would receive a gift to draft Okafor.
The 2015 draft appears to have far less predictability than in past years. Each team is probably prepared to take four to five players depending on who is drafted ahead of them. This could be because there are so many talented players to choose, or possibly, that there are few stand-out players. Is this really a deep draft? The recent trades and the players opting out of contracts have also changed team needs and increased the uncertainty.
In addition, there is a lot of speculation about teams trading into or out of the top ten picks. Teams are shopping picks and it may be fast and furious Thursday night. This draft is going to be very interesting.
As a result of all the uncertainty, general managers are increasingly worried they will miss on a star player. No one wants to be the GM known for missing on the next Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler or DeMarre Carroll.
Last minute trades of draft picks by teams will keep the GM’s scrambling to make the best pick. Careers could be made or ruined during the 2015 draft.
End of One-and-Done Rule:
At the heart of all of the uncertainty and worry is the NBA rule that players entering the draft must be 19 years old or have completed their freshman year of college.
The NBA needs to go to a system more like Major League Baseball. Players should have the option to go to college or enter the draft. Then, the NBA can utilize developmental teams to draft players that are simply not ready to be on an NBA roster.
For example, Emmanuel Mudiay could be a great NBA point guard one day. But, other than size, he played only a few games last year for a team in China before getting injured. He may need a couple years at least to get ready for rigors of NBA.
Many of the centers and power forwards in the draft will need to build strength and add weight to handle the professional level players. Ideally, these young players could do that on a developmental team.
The 2015 draft should be very interesting and exciting and I will be watching.