2015 NBA Draft Grades: Western Conference

Now that the 2015 NBA Draft has come and gone, it’s time to pretend we have any idea how these picks will pan out, and grade all 60 picks from Thursday night!

Since the Western Conference had the first pick – which Minnesota nailed with Karl Anthony Towns – let’s grade them first. Stay tuned for the East.



Portland Trail Blazers 


Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (23) – traded with Steve Blake to Brooklyn Nets for Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton (41)

Grade: C-

Explanation: Thursday was a rough day for the Trailblazers fan base. After unloading Nic Batum to Charlotte for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh on Wednesday, LaMarcus Aldridge announced that he didn’t intend on re-signing with the club just hours before the draft. I don’t know if Portland traded for Plumlee to replace Aldridge (or Robin Lopez even, who will also be a free agent this summer), but I think Hollis-Jefferson was worth holding on to, especially now that Batum isn’t around to bolster the teams perimeter defense. I do like Connaughton’s value in the middle of the second round, but I don’t know that Plumlee is actually worth a first round pick, coming off of a down sophomore season. Portland also acquired Spanish guard Daniel Diez from the Utah Jazz, who I don’t think will make any kind of immediate impact.

Oklahoma City Thunder


Cameron Payne (14), Dakari Johnson (48)

Grade: B

Explanation: I said it in my Thunder draft profile, if Payne was on the board he’d be the perfect fit for OKC. Looking for a combo guard to replace Reggie Jackson – sorry Dion Waiters – Payne showed tremendous ability to both create shots for himself and others during his two years at Murray State. With an offensive game resembling that of Lou Williams, Payne’s a silky smooth lefty who knows how to split defenses and knock down threes, but plays selflessly, and more often than not looks to get his team the easiest shot possible. I think being able to get a big like Johnson as late as OKC got him was a good value pick, as I see him being able to be a poor man’s Kendrick Perkins for them if necessary.

Utah Jazz


Trey Lyles (12), Olivier Hanlan (42), Daniel Diez (54) – traded to Portland Trailblazers

Grade: B

Explanation: I’m not sure that Lyles would have still been on the board at 12 had he played for any team other than Kentucky this past season, as the dynamic power forward was asked to play out of position for a good chunk of the year. With that said, I think Lyles showed some diversity in his offensive game, and even though I wouldn’t really feel comfortable playing him at the small forward position (especially not on this Jazz team), I don’t think he’d be completely inept defensively having to guard other wings. I think Utah clearly needed to add some depth at forward, and Lyles was the best player available at the position. I’m also intrigued with the Hanlan pick, as I think the Jazz are committed to Dante Exum at point guard, and he could benefit playing with a combo guard who has the ability to create his own shot.

Denver Nuggets


Emmanuel Mudiay (7)

Grade: B+

Explanation: Mike Malone and the Nuggets have made it very public that they want to play fast, and they got the perfect point guard to help them accomplish that with Mudiay. Possessing an impressive physique with matching athleticism, the only glaring hole in Mudiay’s game is his perimeter shooting, but he’s still an unstoppable force driving to the basket, where he can finish and find the open man with similar ease. Mudiay has tremendous defensive potential as well, and I think it’s a steal to get a player who was widely regarded as a top two or three at worst pick before he decided to play in China all the way at seven.

Minnesota Timberwolves


Karl Anthony Towns (1), Cedi Osman (31) traded with Rakeem Christmas (36) to Cleveland for Tyus Jones

Grade: A

Explanation: I think the consensus is that the Wolves got the best prospect in this draft with Towns. A defensive anchor with more offensive ability than he was able to show at Kentucky, Towns projects to be the prototypical NBA center for the future, as he can score from anywhere, is a skilled ball handler and passer, is good in transition, and can defend both on the low block and closer to the top of the key. I think putting Towns next to Andrew Wiggins gives the Wolves one of if not THE best young core in the NBA, and getting a point guard with big game experience and huge upside in Jones is the icing on the cake. A-plus if I could.


Houston Rockets


Sam Dekker (18), Montrezl Harrell (32)

Grade: A-

Explanation: The Rockets used their two picks to get world class athletes who will thrive in transition, but also be able to help score in the half court and space the floor for James Harden. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Dekker, but getting him at 18 is very good value, as is getting a guy who some scouts are comparing to Kenneth Faried in Harrell with a second round pick. Given that the team might be without both Josh Smith and Corey Brewer next season, I think Dekker should be able to give them solid production as a 3&D player immediately, the only question is whether or not he’ll be able to convert at an above average rate from distance (spoiler alert: after shooting 39 percent his freshman season, he shot just 32 percent the last two seasons). Harrell’s good enough to be a first big off the bench within the next couple of seasons, and could be one of the major surprises in this draft.

Memphis Grizzlies


Jarell Martin (25), Traded Jon Leuer to Phoenix Suns for Andrew Harrison (44)

Grade: C

Explanation: I don’t know that Martin necessarily has first round talent, and I don’t totally see where Harrison fits into the equation. I honestly prefer 2014 first-round pick Jarnell Stokes over Martin in terms of who would get a crack at the extra big man minutes, and with a talented guard like R.J. Hunter available, the Martin trade didn’t really do much for me. With that said, he’s got the tools to be able to fill the departed Leuer’s role on the team, where he’ll use his strength and athleticism on the glass, as well as facing up and attacking the rim. Martin doesn’t have much of a shooting stroke, but if the Grizzlies need six fouls he should be good for them. I think Harrison’s an intriguing fit in that he’s already played in a lot of meaningful games and taken (and made) some huge shots. As a bigger guard who has shown the ability to run an offense, is above average from three, and knows how to penetrate, I look forward to seeing where he stands in the backup point guard conversation.

San Antonio Spurs


Nikola Milutinov (26), Cady Lallane (55)

Grade: B

Explanation: With several role players looking for new contracts, it made a ton of sense for the Spurs to take Serbian big man Nikola Milutinov with their first round pick, as he isn’t ready to come over to the NBA yet anyway. At 7-feet tall and 220 pounds, Milutinov is more of an energy player, relying on his athleticism to be effective on the boards. Unfortunately for Lallane, he has about as good of a chance as suiting up for Gregg Popovich next season as Milutinov. Even though the UMass product has potential to be a rim protector off the bench, the Spurs once again have a loaded roster, with several players they need to prioritize above the late second round pick.

Dallas Mavericks


Justin Anderson (21), Satnam Singh (52)

Grade: B+

Explanation: For a team looking like they’re on the brink of rebuilding, I think being able to add a 3&D guy who could probably start immediately with a pick as late as 21 is tremendous value. Anderson showed great improvement in his stroke last season, and as one of the key pieces of Tony Bennett‘s stingy Virginia defense the last couple of years, he should be able to come into the league and defend multiple positions. Anderson’s game reminds me a lot of Brandon Rush, as he’s a heads up player on the offensive end, has great lateral quickness, and is both strong enough and long enough to defend guys taller and bigger than him. I don’t think we’ll see Singh in the NBA next season, but you can’t teach tall, and at 7-foot-2, he’ll be a fun project for the Texas Legends.

New Orleans Pelicans


Branden Dawson (56) traded to Los Angeles Clippers

Grade: Incomplete

Explanation: The only pick the Pelicans had in the draft was the fifth to last pick in the second round, I’m not going to fault them for selling it to the Clippers. And as much as I do like Dawson for Los Angeles – more on that later – I know this is a big offseason for the Pelicans, so I don’t have a problem with them not using a roster spot with this pick.


Golden State Warriors


Kevon Looney (30)

Grade: B+

Explanation: Considering Looney was being considered by several teams with lottery picks, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say Golden State got a steal when he fell in their lap with the last pick in the first round. The Warriors rotation is pretty much set next season, but Looney gives them another 6-foot-9 or so wing who defends and rebounds, and can knock down the three. I see Looney as a rich man’s James Michael McAdoo, so don’t expect him to take the league by storm next year, but if the Dubs are able to move David Lee there’s a chance he could see some extended time.

Los Angeles Clippers

Picks: Bought Branden Dawson (56) from New Orleans

Grade: B

Explanation: If you turn the clock back two years, you might be able to find Dawson as a projected lottery pick in “next year’s Mock Draft.” Clearly a few things have gotten in the way since, including a complete inability to shoot from deep, but Dawson is an NBA level athlete who can defend in the league today. If Doc Rivers can find a way to help him develop his offensive game he could be a rotation player some day, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make the roster as an energy guy. Could prove to be good value considering what they gave up and where they got him.

Phoenix Suns


Devin Booker (13), Andrew Harrison (44) traded to Memphis for Jon Leuer

Grade: B

Explanation: I love the value of Booker at 13. The 6-foot-5 two guard had a lot of very talented players to share the ball with in his one season at Kentucky, but still managed to be the teams second leading scorer, showcasing a silky smooth jumper and accompanying NBA range. Not necessarily a facilitator, Booker should be the perfect complement to either Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight, depending on Phoenix’s plans this summer. Speaking of their plans, I can’t help but wonder if they picked up Leuer with the idea that they might move a Morris or two. Buried behind one of the best frontcourts in basketball in Memphis, Leuer has shown the ability to knock down the mid-range/three ball, and is a decent rebounder/defender.

Sacramento Kings


Willie Cauley-Stein (6)

Grade: B+

Explanation: I want to give Sacramento an A for keeping this pick and taking the best defensive big man in this draft, but the potential for his ankle injury to resurface scares me. With that said, in terms of games translating from college/over seas to the pros, I think Cauley-Stein is one of the safest picks in the lottery. For a team that’s finished bottom four defensively three of the last four seasons, the Kentucky big man lives up to the billing of being able to guard one-through-five, is a menace on the boards, and is one of the best pick-and-roll defenders to come into the league in years. I also think this pick shows a commitment DeMarcus Cousins, as not only are the two friends, but this makes Cousins life easier on the defensive end.

Los Angeles Lakers


D’Angelo Russell (2), Larry Nance, Jr. (27), Anthony Brown (34)

Grade: A-

Explanation: Russell was one of my favorite players coming into this draft, and in my opinion, the Lakers couldn’t go wrong with one of him or Jahlil Okafor. It’s interesting that they decided to pass on pairing Okafor with Julius Randle, showing concern for what would project to be a weak front line defensively speaking. Instead, they took the drafts best perimeter scorer, who will be the perfect guy to play next to and take the torch from Kobe Bryant. Despite the knock that people don’t want to play with Mamba, having Kobe to humble him and show him the ropes will be beneficial for Russell, and the Lakers have a promising future with him and Randle as building blocks. With how little talent the Lakers have, both Nance and Brown should be able to find minutes at the forward positions, where their energy and defense will be welcome additions. Considering this pick could have wound up going to Philadelphia had it fallen out of the top five, I think the Lakers hit the jackpot on Thursday.

About Jared Mintz

Jared has worked in ESPN's Production Research and Stats and Analysis Departments, and has contributed to websites such as IamaGM, SBNation, FanSided, and Bro Jackson. He's a Knicks fan, so he's been forced to watch the NBA objectively for the last 15 (going on infinity) years. Follow him on Twitter at @JMintzHoops