By Stephen Brisman
The first pick of the 2015 NBA draft is… who? This has been the question on a lot of basketball fan’s minds. Especially fans of teams like the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. These are teams that have a very high chance of getting the coveted first pick. Being the first overall pick in a NBA draft is an honor and gives players the opportunity to lead their class. Whoever does end up going first overall would be joining a group of hall of famers and future hall of famers who have also gone first overall in their draft classes. Guys like Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’neal, Tim Duncan, Lebron James, and many others.
The standout freshman center from the Duke Blue Devils Jahlil Okafor is the leading candidate to be the first pick in this years draft. He has a good chance of winning both the Wooden award, and of leading his Blue Devils to the NCAA tournament title. Okafor has the body of a pure center, measuring in at 270 pounds and 6”11. He is 5 pounds heavier and the same height as the best center in the league, the Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard. Okafor is almost unstoppable in the paint, and a great post player. Okafor averages 17.9 PPG, 9 RPG with an incredibly efficient 0.669% field goal percentage.
Although Okafor looks like a safe first pick, remember that not all Duke players to succeed in the NBA. Former Duke sensations like JJ Reddick, Grant Hill, and former Dream Team member Christian Laettner were never able to reach their full potential. Yes, Kyrie Irving did play for Duke and go first overall in the 2011 draft and go on to win NBA All-Star MVP in 2014, but he only played 11 games with Duke. Another possible first pick is Karl-Anthony Towns. He is a top player from the Kentucky Wildcats. Unlike Duke, Kentucky has had its share of All-Stars in the NBA. Stars like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo. (John Wall and Anthony Davis both went first overall in their drafts). The freshman center has led them to an amazing 34-0 record heading into the NCAA tournament, averages 9.7 PPG, grabs 6.7 RPG and 2.4 BPG while only averaging 20.7 minutes per game. His limited playing time is not due to his lack of importance but because Kentucky has dominated most games this season. There was no reason for him to be playing more than that. Even though his statistics don’t show it, Towns is a top player in the country and is one of its most elite defenders.
The center position has few dominant players in the NBA. This was proved in 2014 when the NBA ruled that the NBA All-Star starters didn’t need to include a starting center. The only reason this rule was established was because the centers in the NBA were very weak and undeserving. Ironically enough, there are many centers in this years draft who are expected to be lottery picks. Frank Kaminsky of the Wisconsin Badgers and Willie Cauley-Stein also from the Kentucky Wildcats highlight this year’s talented pool at the center.
As a Knicks fan, I am obviously hoping for the first overall pick in this years draft. And hopefully when Adam Silver announces who was selected, I hear, “with the first pick in the 2015 NBA draft, the New York Knicks select, Karl-Anthony Towns!”