Ranking the 12 Players Taken Ahead of Devin Booker in the 2015 NBA Draft

Taken with the 13th pick of the 2015 NBA draft, Devin Booker has become an absolute superstar with the Phoenix Suns and has the franchise on the cusp of winning its first-ever NBA championship. Still just 24 years of age, Booker has averaged 23 points per game over the course of his six-year career and is one of just four players from the ’15 draft to make at least one NBA All-Star Game, an honor he’s now earned twice.

Many people would say Booker is the best player of the 2015 class thus far and there’s certainly an argument for that. At the very worst, he’s in the top two. But his place on the list isn’t actually what we’re doing here today. Instead, we’re simply ranking the dozen players taken ahead of him in the 2015 NBA draft.

12. Mario Hezonja

Croatian-born Mario Hezonja was already a two-time Spanish League champion when he was taken with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Orlando Magic and added a Greek League title in 2021. In between, he played 330 regular-season games in the NBA over the course of five seasons, three in Orlando and one each with the New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

11. Stanley Johnson

After one season at the University of Arizona, where he was named a Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Stanley Johnson was taken with the eighth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons, with whom he spent the first three and a half seasons of his career. In February 2019, he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, and he spent the last two seasons with the Toronto Raptors. In 371 regular-season games, Johnson has averaged 6.2 points and 3.1 rebounds.

10. Trey Lyles

One of four Kentucky Wildcats to be taken in the top 13 picks of the 2015 NBA draft, Trey Lyles was selected with the 12th overall pick by the Utah Jazz, with whom he spent the first two years of his career. In June 2017, as part of the deal that brought Donovan Mitchell to Utah, Lyles was traded to the Denver Nuggets and spent two seasons in the Mile High City before signing with the San Antonio Spurs. In 374 regular-season games, he’s averaged 7.3 points and 4.2 rebounds.

9. Justise Winslow

After one year at Duke, Justise Winslow was selected with the 10th overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft by the Miami Heat, with whom he played four and a half seasons before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. In 267 regular-season games, Winslow has averaged 8.8 points and 5.3 rebounds.

8. Willie Cauley-Stein

A consensus First Team All-American in his third and final season at Kentucky, Willie Cauley-Stein was the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings, with whom he spent the first four years of his career. In the summer of 2019, the Kings extended him a qualifying offer but then rescinded it, at which point Cauley-Stein signed with the Golden State Warriors, with whom he played 41 games before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks. In 402 regular-season games, he’s averaged 9.1 points and six rebounds per game.

7. Jahlil Okafor

After winning ACC Freshman of the Year and ACC Player of the Year in his lone season at Duke, Jahlil Okafor was the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Had his career followed the path he was on as a rookie, a year in which he averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds per game, he’d certainly be ranked a lot higher on this list.

After being benched in Philly at the start of his third season, Okafor was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in December 2017 and then signed with the New Orleans Pelicans ahead of the 2018-19 season. After two years in the Big Easy, he signed with the Detroit Pistons ahead of the 2020-21 season but played just 27 games, only starting two of them and averaging 5.4 points per game.

6. Frank Kaminsky

The consensus National Player of the Year as a senior at Wisconsin, Frank Kaminksy was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets, with whom he played the first four years of his career. Ahead of the 2019-20 season, he signed a two-year deal with the Phoenix Suns and, like Booker, is preparing to play in his first NBA Finals. In 368 regular-season games, Kaminsky has averaged 9.4 points and four rebounds per game.

5. Emmanuel Mudiay

You may be wondering why someone who didn’t play a single minute in the NBA in 2020-21 is in the top five on this list but in this writer’s humble opinion, Emmanuel Mudiay still has plenty left in the tank and is a top-five talent from this class when he’s on.

Taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets, with whom he played two and a half seasons before being traded to the New York Knicks. In 2018-19, not including Tim Hardaway Jr., who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks midway through the season, Mudiay was the Knicks’ leading scorer for the year, averaging 14.8 points per game. But he then surprisingly took a backup role the following season in signing with the Utah Jazz, with whom he averaged 7.3 points in 54 games. In total, Mudiay has played exactly 300 regular-season games, averaging 11 points.

4. Myles Turner

After one year at Texas, Myles Turner was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers and is one of just three players that’s still with the team that selected him. After earning All-Rookie Second Team honors, Turner has improved each and every year he’s been in the league and has become one of the NBA’s best shot blockers, leading the league in both 2018-19 and 2020-21. In 389 regular-season games, Turner has averaged 12.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks.

3. Kristpas Porzingis

Latvian sensation Kristaps Porzingis was taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the New York Knicks, a move with which some in the Big Apple weren’t too happy. However, Porzingis was able to change a few minds on the way to finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaging 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 2015-16.

Two seasons later, Porzingis was selected to the NBA All-Star Game and averaged 22.7 points per game, which still serves as his career high. Unfortunately, an ACL injury forced him to miss the entire 2018-19 campaign, during which he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. In two seasons with the Mavs, he’s averaged 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks.

2. D’Angelo Russell

After one year at Ohio State, D’Angelo Russell was the second overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he spent just two seasons before he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets as LA wanted to replace him with Lonzo Ball, who was also traded away from Hollywood just a couple of years later.

While Russell had two underrated years with the Lakers, he truly became a star in Brooklyn and was named to the NBA All-Star Game during the 2018-19 season, a year in which he averaged 21.1 points and seven assists per game. In July 2019 Russell was part of the sign-and-trade deal between the Nets and Golden State Warriors that brought Kevin Durant to Brooklyn. With Stephen Curry injured, Russell started all 33 games in which he appeared for the Dubs, averaging 23.1 points per game, but in February 2020, he was traded again, this time to the Minnesota Timberwolves, with whom he’s now teammates with the No. 1 player on our list.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns

Was there really any doubt that Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, wouldn’t be the top choice in our rankings as well? Since unanimously winning Rookie of the Year, Towns has earned two All-Star Game selections and was also a member of the All-NBA Third Team in 2018. In 408 regular-season games, Towns has averaged 22.9 points per game, shooting 52.7% from the floor and 83.5% from the foul line, and has added 11.6 rebounds, three assists, and 1.4 blocks.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

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