From Karl-Anthony Towns to Norman Powell, the 2015 draft class built a reputation as, at least, a deep group.
Somewhere in there, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker finds himself in a heap of talented players. Despite Booker becoming a fresh face of the Suns, there was plenty of competition across the league and a wide breadth of rookie success in different circumstances. But where does he rank among the best rookies?
To settle this debate, Kevin Zimmerman, Bryan Gibberman and Kellan Olson were asked to put together a ranking of the five best rookies from the season. Unanimously, this is what they decided — with a few comments.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns (18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks)
Imagine where another year learning from Kevin Garnett and a few lessons from Tom Thibodeau will take him. Towns spent 2015-16, like Booker, showing a more advanced skillset than he flashed at Kentucky. The 20-year-old finished the year with a top-15 PER in the league.
Nearly every element of Towns’ game is amazing for a rookie. His jumper and defense being this good already could change the way we view the center position for quite some time. He’s having one of the best rookie seasons ever and is (rightfully so) going to get some All-NBA votes. He should be the unanimous rookie of the year.
2. Kristaps Porzingis (14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks)
He dipped during the second half of the season but had a strong year. KP’s ability to impact the game on both ends keeps him in the number-two slot.
There’s an argument here for Nikola Jokic because of Porzingis’ stats falling off in the second half of the season, but Porzingis has been the better player on both ends of the floor over the course of the full season. Towns is a far more advanced model of what Porzingis is, but he does fit in with that group of futuristic big men.
3. Nikola Jokic (10.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists)
The analytics absolutely adore Jokic. He’s an intelligent big man who can handle the ball and shoot it. Another scary prospect for the future.
Interchangeable with Porzingis, but Jokic had more to work with on his team.
4. Devin Booker (13.8 points, 2.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds)
Booker comes in fourth because basketball is played on both ends. As great as he was on offense, Booker was almost as much of a detriment on defense. This aspect of his game will continue to grow and improve. I have faith he becomes at least a league average defender.
It’s completely reasonable for Booker’s shooting numbers to dip with the amount of responsibility he has in the Suns’ offense, but that hurts him when being compared to other rookies, especially when you consider how poor he’s been on defense.
5. Justise Winslow (6.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists)
At times, Winslow has been one of the best defensive players in the entire league. The Heat are starting to play him more at the 4 and at the 5, and that’s where he truly becomes dangerous with his ability to defend almost anyone on the floor. Playing great defense on a contender as a rookie deserves some praise here, which is why some even have him ranked ahead of Booker.
Indiana’s Myles Turner, Philly’s Jahlil Okafor, Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky or Los Angeles’ D’Angelo Russell are among those who could be mentioned here, but Winslow played the most impactful ball in clutch minutes for a playoff squad.
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