BY John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Andrew Wiggins looks like he’ll be a two-way NBA star, but overall, the 2014-15 rookie class was both snake-bitten and underwhelming. Enter the new class, which hopes to be healthier and more impactful than its predecessor.
The Minnesota Timberwolves tabbed Karl-Anthony Towns to join two other No. 1 picks on their roster, but there were more Rookie of the Year candidates later in the top 10 of the 2015 Draft. That’s what the rookies themselves think, at least.
At the annual Panini Rookie Photo Shoot at the Knicks’ practice facility in Tarrytown, New York, earlier this month, 36 rookies answered eight questions about their class, as well as two more about what they’re expecting and who they’ll be playing this year. And the rooks told us that they liked No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor, both short- and long-term, more than Towns.
They also told us that Devin Booker can shoot, that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can defend, that there were a few good point guards in the ’15 Draft, and that Kevin Durant has some fans among his newest opponents.
Below are the results from the seventh NBA.com Rookie Survey. Note that players were not allowed to vote for themselves, college teammates or NBA teammates.
Who will be the 2015-16 Rookie of the Year?
2. Stanley Johnson, Detroit — 19.4 percent
3. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota — 12.9 percent
T-4. Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver — 9.7 percent
D’Angelo Russell, L.A. Lakers — 9.7 percent
Others receiving votes: Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento; Trey Lyles, Utah
Last year: Jabari Parker — 52.8 percent
Worth noting: The No. 3 pick got almost twice as many votes as Nos. 1 and 2 combined. Other rookies will get the opportunity to put up numbers, but no team needs its rookie’s offense more than the Sixers. Scoring 10.0 points per 100 possessions fewer than the league average last season, they were the worst offensive team in the last 12 years.
Which rookie will have the best career?
2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota — 17.2 percent
T-3. Justin Anderson, Dallas — 13.8 percent
Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver — 13.8 percent
5. Stanley Johnson, Detroit — 8.0 percent
6. Sam Dekker, Houston — 6.9 percent
Last year: Jabari Parker — 45.9 percent
Worth noting: Towns seemed to be the obvious No. 1 pick for the Wolves, but didn’t get much love from his fellow rookies. Four of the 36 couldn’t vote for him, but 32 could, and he picked up just 10 total votes.
Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?
T-2. R.J. Hunter (28), Boston — 9.1 percent
Tyus Jones (24), Minnesota — 9.1 percent
Bobby Portis (22), Chicago — 9.1 percent
Justise Winslow (10), Miami — 9.1 percent
6. Terry Rozier (16), Boston — 6.1 percent
Myles Turner (11), Indiana — 6.1 percent
Others receiving votes: Devin Booker (13), Phoenix; Anthony Brown (34), L.A. Lakers; Willie Cauley-Stein (6), Sacramento; Jerian Grant (19), New York; Dakari Johnson (48), Oklahoma City; Stanley Johnson (8), Detroit; Trey Lyles (12), Utah; Jarell Martin (25), Memphis; Jordan Mickey (33), Boston; Emmanuel Mudiay (7), Denver; Jahlil Okafor (3), Philadelphia; Kristaps Porzingis (4), New York; Josh Richardson (40), Miami; Rashad Vaughn (17), Milwaukee
Last year: Kyle Anderson — 11.1 percent
Worth noting: We changed the wording on this question (from “Which rookie is being most overlooked?”), and it still get the biggest mix of responses. Nine of the 11 picks from 3-13 (all except Mario Hezonja and Frank Kaminsky) got at least one vote.
Which rookie is the most athletic?
2. Pat Connaughton, Portland — 13.9 percent
3. Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento — 11.1 percent
4. Justise Winslow, Miami — 8.3 percent
T-5. Mario Hezonja, Orlando — 5.6 percent
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brooklyn — 5.6 percent
J.P. Tokoto, Philadelphia — 5.6 percent
8. Kelly Oubre, Washington — 4.2 percent
Last year: Zach LaVine — 56.6 percent
Worth noting: This category usually doesn’t get such a variety of responses. Maybe there are a lot of great athletes in this rookie class and maybe there’s just nobody that stands out like LaVine did last year. Two of the guys who got votes — McCullough and Qualls — suffered torn ACLs in the last year.
Which rookie is the best shooter?
T-2. Pat Connaughton, Portland — 8.8 percent
R.J. Hunter, Boston — 8.8 percent
4. Anthony Brown, L.A. Lakers — 5.9 percent
Mario Hezonja, Orlando — 5.9 percent
Others receiving votes: Tyler Harvey, Orlando; Stanley Johnson, Detroit; Kelly Oubre, Washington; Rashad Vaughn, Milwaukee
Last year: Doug McDermott — 39.5 percent
Worth noting: Booker, who shot 40 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the free-throw line in Summer League, was the only player to receive more than half of the votes for any question.
Which rookie is the best defender?
2. Stanley Johnson, Detroit — 20.6 percent
3. Justise Winslow, Miami — 17.6 percent
T-4. Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento — 5.9 percent
Delon Wright, Toronto — 5.9 percent
Others receiving votes: Justin Anderson, Dallas; Anthony Brown, L.A. Lakers; Rakeem Christmas, Indiana; Jerian Grant, New York; Montrezl Harrell, Houston; Kelly Oubre, Washington; Josh Richardson, Miami; Edy Tavares, Atlanta; Joseph Young, Indiana
Worth noting: All the guys who received multiple votes will play for teams that ranked in the bottom 12 in defensive efficiency last season. Rookies seldom make a positive impact on that end of the floor, but for the teams they’ve joined, these five guys probably can’t hurt.
Which rookie is the best playmaker?
2. Tyus Jones, Minnesota — 17.1 percent
3. Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver — 14.3 percent
4. Delon Wright, Toronto — 8.6 percent
T-5. Cameron Payne, Oklahoma City — 5.7 percent
Joseph Young, Indiana — 5.7 percent
Others receiving votes: Jerian Grant, New York; Kelly Oubre, Washington; Terry Rozier, Boston
Last year: Tyler Ennis — 24.3 percent
Worth noting: This was the only question for which Stanley Johnson didn’t get a vote. He wins the “Jack of all trades” award with votes for seven different questions. Kelly Oubre (six) and Willie Cauley-Stein (five) also seem to be versatile, but didn’t win any categories either.
Which rookie is the funniest?
2. Frank Kaminsky, Charlotte — 25.7 percent
3. D’Angelo Russell, L.A. Lakers — 5.7 percent
Others receiving votes: Justin Anderson, Dallas; Stanley Johnson, Detroit; Kelly Oubre, Washington; Cameron Payne, Oklahoma City; Josh Richardson, Miami; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota; Rashad Vaughn, Milwaukee; Justise Winslow, Miami; Joseph Young, Indiana
Last year: Joel Embiid — 20.0 percent
Worth noting: Hollis-Jefferson received votes in just three categories, but won two of them and had the most total votes, thanks to his dominance in the humor department.
What will be the biggest adjustment for you, playing in the NBA?
2. Length of season — 18.6 percent
3. Physicality (size and strength of opponents) — 17.1 percent
4. Lifestyle & time management — 11.4 percent
5. Conditioning and body maintenance — 4.3 percent
Also receiving votes: Complexity of the game, Paying taxes, Shorter shot clock, Travel
Last year: Speed or pace of the game — 26.4 percent
Worth noting: Hopefully, the “paying taxes” guy has a good accountant.
Who is your favorite player in the league?
2. Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers — 18.2 percent
3. LeBron James, Cleveland — 15.2 percent
T-4. Stephen Curry, Golden State — 9.1 percent
Dwyane Wade, Miami — 9.1 percent
6. James Harden, Houston — 6.1 percent
Others receiving votes: Anthony Davis, New Orleans; Kevin Garnett, Minnesota; Marc Gasol, Memphis; Rudy Gay, Sacramento; Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio; Klay Thompson, Golden State; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City
Last year: Kevin Durant — 25.0 percent
Worth noting: The top three vote-getters finished in the same order last year. The rooks weren’t affected by the fact that Durant and Bryant combined to play just 62 games last season.