The draft class of 2015 becomes eligible to sign contract extensions for this summer. Several players from this class, including many near the top of the draft, haven’t seen their careers progress as many predicted. On the flip side, multiple players drafted lower in the lottery and in the first round have blossomed into starters and rotation players. Going from 1-30, we’ll look at where each player stands heading into extension negotiations.
1. Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves: Despite the development of some of his fellow 2015 draftees, Towns remains the jewel of this class. He’s played all 82 games in each of his first three seasons and has produced at a level worthy of a first overall pick. In 2018, he broke through as an All-Star for the first time. Very few true centers can match Towns’ inside-outside game, as he’s hitting over 42 percent from behind the arc this year while remaining one of the best inside scorers in the league. Even though Minnesota has considerable money already invested in Andrew Wiggins, along with a new contract eventually for Jimmy Butler, the Wolves would do well to sign Towns up to a full max extension on July 1st.
2. D’Angelo Russell – Brooklyn Nets: Russell has had an up and down start to his career, from his rookie year during the Kobe Bryant retirement tour to being traded this past summer as a way for the Lakers to shed the salary of Timofey Mozgov. Russell seems to be finding a home in Brooklyn, however, as he’s had the best season of his short career. Russell remains caught between being a point guard and a scoring guard, and his defense needs work, but the offensive talent is there. With some injury history on his ledger, it’s likely Brooklyn will want to see one more year of the 22-year-old guard before committing to him long-term.
3. Jahlil Okafor – Brooklyn Nets: Okafor has been unable to put it together over the course of his first three NBA seasons. Okafor showed some offensive promise as a rookie, but injuries held him back throughout his first two seasons. The emergence of Joel Embiid made Okafor expendable for Philadelphia and the team declined his fourth-year rookie scale option. This made him ineligible for a contract extension as he will become an unrestricted free agent. Early in the 2018 season, he was dealt to Brooklyn, but the change of scenery hasn’t sparked any noticeable improvement in his game.
4. Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks: Porzingis quickly became the Knicks franchise player and that status was cemented when Carmelo Anthony was traded to Oklahoma City last summer. With the team solely built around him for the first time, Porzingis was on his way to putting together the best season of his career before tearing his left ACL in early February. Absent the injury, Porzingis would have been looking at a max contract extension. He still may, but that deal could be structured more like the complex contract Joel Embiid signed last October. Embiid’s contract includes several escalating guarantees that protect Philadelphia against further injury.
5. Mario Hezonja – Orlando Magic: Hezonja hasn’t been able to gain any traction in his career despite repeated opportunities. He’s been handed a role in each of his first three years, but has struggled to maintain the level of play necessary to keep it. That led Orlando to decline his fourth-year rookie scale option, rendering him ineligible for an extension. Despite the most playing time of his career to date, his third season has been just as inconsistent as the first two, leaving his NBA future in doubt.
6. Willie Cauley-Stein – Sacramento Kings: Cauley-Stein came into the NBA with the reputation of a defensive game changer. He’s shown flashes of that ability, but has been just as inconsistent as his franchise. With the Kings again picking near the top of the big laden draft, and fellow young big Skal Labissiere having shown some promise, Cauley-Stein is likely to play it out and hit the restricted free agent market in 2019.
7. Emmanuel Mudiay – New York Knicks: The Knicks acquired Mudiay at the 2018 trade deadline after he fell out of the rotation with Denver. That the Nuggets, despite the lack of a backup point guard on the roster, gave up on Mudiay sent up some red flags. After showing some promise as a scorer and playmaker as a rookie, Mudiay has regressed the last two seasons. His shooting has only improved by a negligible amount, while his playmaking has fallen off. With Frank Ntilikina in the fold, New York will let Mudiay play it out next year and make a final decision the following summer.
8. Stanley Johnson – Detroit Pistons: Like Mudiay, Johnson has had moments of brilliance in his first three years, especially on the defensive end. Unfortunately, they’ve been too few and too far in between for it to make a real difference for the Pistons. He remains a flawed offensive player who can’t shoot and struggles when handling the ball. In a league where non-star wings are increasingly asked to fill a “3&D” role, Johnson can bring the defense, but not nearly enough shooting. Given the cap concerns facing the Pistons, Johnson will play out his final season and Detroit will make a decision when he’s a restricted free agent in 2019.
9. Frank Kaminsky – Charlotte Hornets: Kaminsky has become a solid enough stretch four off the bench, but that is hardly what is hoped for from a lottery pick. He remains behind veterans Dwight Howard, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller in the Charlotte big man rotation. The Hornets are also dealing with some cap clogging deals of their own, making it unlikely Kaminsky is extended this summer.
10. Justise Winslow: Despite some injuries throughout his first three seasons, Winslow has shown potential of developing into the “3&D” player all teams covet. He can capably defend 2-4 and can hold his own on switches with point guards and centers. It’s a small sample size with only 128 attempts, but his three-point shooting is over 38 percent, which is a marked improvement from his previous high of 27 percent. Complicating matters for Winslow are the contracts the Heat have already signed with some of their other role players, including fellow wings Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson. That likely leaves Winslow to hit the restricted market in 2019.
11. Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers: Turner has been one of the steals of this draft class. He became a starter midway through his rookie season and has been a mainstay at the center spot for Indiana ever since. Injuries have caused his numbers to drop a bit this season, but he’s the modern kind of big all teams covet. He can step out and hit the three on offense, while protecting the rim on defense. Turner, along with Victor Oladipo, are the blocks the Pacers are building around. Because of this, expect Turner to be extended this summer.
12. Trey Lyles – Denver Nuggets: After becoming somewhat of an afterthought with the Utah Jazz, Lyles has blossomed with Denver. He’s filled the reserve stretch four role for the Nuggets and knocked down 38 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s also hitting over 49 percent overall and has down a nice job on the glass. Alas, reserve bigs don’t generally garner extensions, meaning Lyles will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019.
13. Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns: While Myles Turner is one of the steals of the 2015 class, Booker is the steal of the class. Despite being just 21, he’s already one of the best scoring guards in the NBA. He’s also improved as a shooter, with his three-point accuracy up over 38 percent on more than seven attempts a game. And this year, the Suns put the ball in his hands more than ever and Booker delivered a 24.4 assist rate. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want to miss the postseason again, so the Suns pitch will not only have to come with a big payday, but a plan to get back to the playoffs as well.
14. Cameron Payne – Chicago Bulls: Payne’s career got off to a slow start playing behind Russell Westbrook with Oklahoma City along with several foot injuries. He’s shown some more playmaking ability with the Bulls, but that seems to have come due to increased minutes. With Kris Dunn starting for the Bulls, it would be a surprise to see Payne get an extension this summer.
15. Kelly Oubre Jr. – Washington Wizards: Oubre has become the Wizards most important reserve. He’s improved enough as a shooter and scorer that Washington now trusts him to play key minutes late in games. He also remains an aggressive, if sometimes ineffective, defender. With Washington already committed to John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, it’s unlikely the Wizards will reach an extension for Oubre, making him an attractive target for other teams in 2019.
16. Terry Rozier – Boston Celtics: Rozier came on late in his sophomore season, before breaking out in 2018. He’s still more scorer than playmaker, making his ideal role a combo guard off the bench, but that is a role in increasing demand. Rozier’s status with Boston is tied to that of Marcus Smart. With Kyrie Irving entrenched as the starter, the Celtics may not want to commit too much money to two backup guards. Smart is a restricted free agent this summer and his status with Boston may determine Rozier’s future in green.
17. Rashad Vaughn – Free Agent: Vaughn never established himself with Milwaukee and had his fourth-year rookie scale option declined, making him ineligible for an extension. He’s since been traded to Brooklyn and New Orleans, before being waived by the Pelicans. Vaughn also signed two 10-day contracts with the Magic.
18. Sam Dekker – Los Angeles Clippers: Dekker missed almost the entirety of his rookie season with the Houston Rockets due to a back injury. He then showed some promise as a backup forward in 2017 before being traded to the Clippers as part of the Chris Paul trade last summer. Despite a rash of injuries up front for the Clippers, Dekker hasn’t been able to secure consistent minutes. He won’t be extended and will need to have a big fourth year to draw an offer next summer.
19. Jerian Grant – Chicago Bulls: Grant remains caught in the morass of Bulls point guards with Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne. He’s shown more than Payne, but not enough to garner an extension this summer. He’ll battle Payne for the backup minutes behind Dunn next season as both look to hit restricted free agency in 2019.
20. Delon Wright – Toronto Raptors: After a slow start to his career that saw him play just 54 total games his first two years, Wright has picked it up considerably in his third year. He’s one of the leaders of the Raptors “Bench Mob” and has shown the ability to competently run the team behind Kyle Lowry. Wright’s status in Toronto is tied to that of Fred VanVleet, who has broken out as the Raptors sixth man. With Norman Powell already signed to a new contract starting next season, if the Raps re-sign VanVleet, it could eventually squeeze Wright off an increasingly expensive roster.
21. Justin Anderson – Philadelphia 76ers: Anderson has looked better in limited action in his two years with the Sixers after being acquired at the 2017 trade deadline from the Dallas Mavericks, but that doesn’t get him an extension. Philadelphia has already reached new deals with Joel Embiid and Robert Covington, while Dario Saric and Ben Simmons sit on tap next summer. With plans to bolster the roster using cap space this year or next, Anderson won’t be extended this summer.
22. Bobby Portis – Chicago Bulls: Portis has had a breakout season for the Bulls, nearly doubling his scoring output, while extending his range as a shooter. He’s hitting 36 percent of his three three-point attempts per game, which is key for Portis to stay on the floor as a four. Unfortunately for Portis, Lauri Markkanen has claimed the starting four spot for the foreseeable future in Chicago. The presence of Markkanen means Portis is likely to hit the restricted market in 2019.
23. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – Brooklyn Nets: Hollis-Jefferson was the initial first round pick the Nets acquired in their rebuild, after trading multiple of their own first round picks to the Celtics. He showed promise as a defender in his first two years, before breaking out as an undersized big this season. Brooklyn has asked Hollis-Jefferson to defend 3-5 this season and he’s held his own. He’s still nothing to write home about as a shooter, but his rebounding and passing have improved. He’s not likely to get an extension, as the Nets have finally dug themselves out of cap hell, but he’s someone they’ll look to retain in the summer of 2019.
24. Tyus Jones – Minnesota Timberwolves: Jones has been solid as the Wolves backup point guard, but hasn’t been able to move past that role. He’s firmly behind Jeff Teague and backup point guards don’t get extended. He’ll play out next year as a backup and then look for his next opportunity in 2019.
25. Jarell Martin – Memphis Grizzlies: Martin has shown flashes throughout his three years in Memphis, but they’ve always come because the Grizzlies haven’t had anyone else to put on the floor. He remains a good athlete at power forward, but his lack of range and defensive shortcomings leave him on the bench when Memphis has healthy players. It was somewhat of a surprise his fourth-year rookie scale option was picked up, so he won’t be extended this summer.
26. Nikola Milutinov – Draft Rights held by San Antonio Spurs: Milutinov has remained overseas since San Antonio draft him. He’s no longer bound by the rookie scale and could sign any type of contract the Spurs deem a fit moving forward, a la Bogdan Bogdanovic with the Sacramento Kings last summer.
27. Larry Nance Jr. – Cleveland Cavaliers: Nance has shown promise as the type of bouncy, energetic big that all good teams seem to have coming off their bench. That has only come more to light since his trade to the Cavs at the 2018 trade deadline. In terms of an extension, it might be more of a matter of where Cleveland is heading than anything Nance does or doesn’t do. If LeBron James leaves in free agency, the Cavaliers may not want to invest money in an extension for a good, but not great, role playing big man.
28. R.J. Hunter – Houston Rockets Two-Way Contract: Hunter was waived by the Boston Celtics following an unimpressive rookie season. He later played with the Chicago Bulls before catching on with Houston on a Two-Way contract. He’s not eligible for an extension after being waived by Boston and is firmly in the fringe category as far as being an NBA player.
29. Chris McCullough – Washington Wizards: McCullough was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets and later traded to the Wizards when Washington dumped some bad salary on Brooklyn. He’s spent most of his career in the G League to this point and had his fourth-year rookie scale option declined.
30. Kevon Looney – Golden State Warriors: Looney was somewhat of an afterthought on the Warriors’ stacked roster. Because of this, and a tax bill that is growing ever larger, Golden State declined his fourth-year rookie scale option. He’s not eligible for an extension, but has shown some growth in his third season, which could keep him with the Warriors beyond this year on a smaller deal.