2015 NBA draft winners and losers

Marc J. Spears

 

NEW YORK – One former NBA player believes New York Knicks fans will regret booing his ex-teammate, Kristaps Porzingis.

Derrick Byars saw superstar potential in the 19-year-old when they were teammates last season for Spain Cajasol Sevilla. But it was obvious that Knicks fans were more interested in a prospect who can help now than one with potential when they strongly booed Porzingis after he was selected fourth overall in Thursday's NBA draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Byars believes Porzingis will get the last laugh.

"Hearing the boos made me feel like they have no idea that they're getting a hell of a player," said Byars, who used to play for the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. "He has potential to be the best talent from this draft when all is said and done. I knew there would be some boos because of fears of European busts. It's near New York City. I'm sure they wanted Emmanuel Mudiay or Justise Winslow or a name that they were familiar with.

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"But I honestly didn't think there would be that many boos. That was kind of brutal. But I think if any European can handle the spotlight and adjusting to the Big Apple, it's Kris."

Porzingis averaged 10.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game for Cajasol Seville last season in the respected Spanish ACB League. While the Latvian is skilled, athletic and talented, it could be several seasons before he reaches his potential. The 6-foot-11, 220-pounder took the resounding jeers in stride.

"A lot of fans weren't happy that they drafted me, but I have to do everything that's in my hands to turn those booing into clapping hands," Porzingis said. "There's nothing I can do. I was happy about it. I want to be part of his organization, and the fans are a little harsh sometimes. But that's how it is in New York and I'm ready for it."

WINNER: MIAMI HEAT

Former forward Justise Winslow was expected to be taken within the first six picks. He fell, however, to the 10th selection where the fortunate Heat selected him. Heat president Pat Riley was due for some good luck after losing LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers last offseason – and maybe losing Dwyane Wade this summer.

But with Winslow coming, the Heat might be more attractive for Wade to stay. If Wade and free-agent point guard Goran Dragic re-sign, Miami could have a formidable lineup with those two veteran guards, Winslow, All-Star Chris Bosh and center Hassan Whiteside.

"I feel like we can mesh well," Winslow said about playing with Bosh and Wade. "I feel like we're all so talented and can do so many things on the court that we'll be able to complement each other's skills, and our presence on the court will be great. I'm ready to get down there, meet the guys and I know we'll have a bright future."

Jahlil Okafor (Getty Images)
Jahlil Okafor (Getty Images)

LOSER: JAHLIL OKAFOR

Former Duke center Jahlil Okafor appeared to be the biggest competition for Kentucky forward Karl-Anthony Towns for the top pick in the draft. It was projected that if Okafor wasn't selected by Minnesota, that the Los Angeles Lakers would take him with the second overall pick.

Minnesota took Towns as expected. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, however, never made Okafor a draft promise for good reason. Kupchak was quietly enamored with Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell and selected him second.

Okafor ended up with the rebuilding Sixers with the third pick. Okafor was the best talent on the board and a surprise option for Philadelphia. Even so, the Sixers have drafted a center for the third year in a row after taking Nerlens Noel and still-injured Joel Embiid the past two seasons.

When asked how the Sixers can make it work with three young centers, Okafor said: "I don't know. It's not my job to figure out. I'll go there and work as hard as I can."

WINNER: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

The T'wolves filled their biggest roster need by taking Towns with the first overall pick. He joins an intriguing group of young teammates that includes 2015 Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, 2015 dunk champion Zach LaVine, injury-plagued guard Ricky Rubio, center Gorgui Dieng and forward Shabazz Muhammad. Minnesota also acquired the draft rights to Duke point guard Tyus Jones, a Minneapolis native who was the 2015 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

Towns should be the next great power forward in T'wolves history after Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love. He also has the challenge of trying to get Minnesota to the postseason for the first time since 2004.

"That's going to be the main goal of the season for me, making the playoffs," Towns said.

DeMarcus Cousins remains with the Kings, for now. (Getty Images)
DeMarcus Cousins remains with the Kings, for now. (Getty Images)

LOSER: SACRAMENTO KINGS

The Sacramento Kings have had one of the least memorable weeks in franchise history, which is very hard to accomplish. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that coach George Karl would like All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to be traded. New general manager Vlade Divac and owner Vivek Ranadive maintain they don't want to trade Cousins. A disgruntled Cousins was not dealt on draft night but could be later, a source said. The Lakers had talks with the Kings leading up to the draft.

The biggest need in recent years for the Kings has been a point guard. Sacramento passed on All-Rookie Team point guard Elfrid Payton a year ago in the draft. On Thursday, the Kings had a chance to select perhaps the best true point guard in the draft in Emmanuel Mudiay with the sixth pick. Sacramento, however, passed because Divac said Mudiay refused to work out for the Kings. The Kings took Kentucky forward-center Willie Cauley-Stein instead.

Mudiay "refused to come here and work out and I just felt I didn't know him enough to make that very important decision," Divac told reporters in Sacramento.

Back in 2009, there was a talented point guard prospect who refused to work out for the Warriors, but former general manager Larry Riley drafted him seventh overall anyway. The point guard's name was Stephen Curry.

WINNER: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

It appears that Blazers free agent LaMarcus Aldridge has played his last game in Portland. The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers are the front-runners to land the All-Star, a source told Yahoo Sports. The Dallas native is also expected to have interest from the Dallas Mavericks.

That's not good news for the Blazers. But in preparation for the expected departure, they acquired two forwards in trades: Mason Plumlee from the Brooklyn Nets; and Noah Vonleh from the Charlotte Hornets.

The Blazers acquired Plumlee and the draft rights to Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton for the draft rights of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and guard Steve Blake. Plumlee averaged 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds in 45 games as a starter last season. Vonleh, acquired on Wednesday, was the ninth pick of last year's draft and was limited to 25 games primarily because of injury. Plumlee and Vonleh don't combine to be Aldridge by any means, but at least Blazers general manager Neil Olshey is being proactive.

LOSER: KEVON LOONEY

Former UCLA forward Kevon Looney entered the draft with two major red flags: a hip injury and sports asthma. While Looney was projected to be middle to late first-round pick, it's inevitable that such issues would hurt one's status. Even so, Looney was one of 20 prospects selected for the draft's green room with a late invitation from the NBA.

Late in the first round, however, Looney, his family and his agent Todd Ramasar abruptly departed from the room for the depths of the Barclays Center when the forward's prospects looked in doubt. But once Looney and his family received word that the champion Golden State Warriors were selecting him with the 30th and final pick of the first round, they rushed back to the green room to sit down and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime moment in front of the TV cameras. After the Warriors' pick was announced, Looney hugged his family but turned his back on his agent who reached out to him.

Chalk this up to a tough and emotional night for the 19-year-old, who has a reputation as a good person.

WINNER: SATNAM SINGH BHAMARA

Satnam Singh Bhamara became the first Indian-born player to be drafted in the NBA when the Dallas Mavericks took him with the 52nd overall pick in the second round. The mammoth 7-foot-2, 290-pounder heard of his selection while sitting in the stands. He is considered a big project who will likely begin his career with the Mavericks' NBA Development League Texas Legends.

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