Is Kristaps Porzingis the best player in the 2015 NBA Draft class? Depends on who you ask, but there’s certainly plenty of interest in the talented Latvian big man among the early pickers, mostly coming from the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers.
A 7’1 (or maybe even taller) Latvian who plays more like a power forward and has been playing for Sevilla since 2011 (when he was just 15) is really one of the more intriguing players in this draft because of his size, his defense both at the rim and a bit further away from it and his ability to stretch the floor, hitting 38% from beyond the arc in the shorter 3-point range they have in Europe.
Porzingis actually made himself available for the draft last year, but that was a move to test the waters. From the little scouts and general managers knew about him, his stock rose high enough to become a top 20 pick. He then withdrew from the draft, saying he needs one more year of basketball in Spain to work on his game and his body. This time, he’s a 100% lottery pick, with some even suggesting good enough to go as the number one pick.
But international prospects, even ones that are described as a cross between Dirk Nowitzki and Andrei Kirilenko, are always risky. There’s something raw, and incompatible, at least at first, with the league they arrive to, and it doesn’t seem like every team is a good fit for players who need development and work on their frame and size to make it in the NBA.
Still, it doesn’t make teams not go after the 19-year old, who’ll celebrate his 20th birthday in August. The Orlando Magic with the 5th overall pick are the team most interested in him, with their need of players who can stretch the floor but also protect the rim. Putting a frontcourt of Porzingis and Vucevic does sound interesting, although might be a bit soft at first.
But the Philadelphia 76ers, with the third overall pick, are best positioned to select him, assuming Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor go 1-2 to the Timberwolves and Lakers. The Sam Hinkie plan is to take the best player available, not go by need, as the 76ers need a whole lot of everything. But perhaps this is all a smokescreen so the Magic try to trade with the 76ers and move up to third, giving Hinkie the thing he loves most: More draft picks so he can fool the ownership and fans that he’s actually building something.