One of the most exciting facets of the 2015-16 season is how well the rookie class is performing. Several much-hyped players have either lived up to, or exceeded, expectations. Karl-Anthony Towns already looks like a beast, while Jahlil Okafor is putting up 20 a night (yes, it’s on the one-win Sixers, but still). Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis might be the most exciting rookie of all, with his thrilling put-back dunks. After the draft (where Porzingis was booed after being selected by the Knicks), the general consensus was that the Latvian could be an incredible player, but he would need plenty of time to develop. However, while he’s far from reaching his full potential, he’s already in the starting lineup and wreaking havoc on a nightly basis. The point is, the 2015 class looks pretty good so far. This leaves us with an essential question: Could it actually be better than the ballyhooed 2014 class?
The hype surrounding the 2014 class admittedly seemed to vary a lot. At one moment, we were hearing that Andrew Wiggins was going to be the next LeBron or Durant, and we should all get as psyched as possible. After his somewhat underwhelming (though, really, still pretty good) lone season at Kansas, we were told to temper our expectations and to prepare ourselves for the possibility that he might end up being more of a Rudy Gay-type player. Still, the overwhelming narrative was that the ’14 class was packed to the brim with potential superstars.
We all know what happened next; the class of 14-15 was a terrible disappointment in its inaugural year, though admittedly for reasons that extended beyond the players themselves and had more to do with kismet than anything. We lost Joel Embiid before the season even started. We lost Julius Randle after 14 minutes. Jabari Parker’s season would also end prematurely, and injuries kept Aaron Gordon from much of his inaugural campaign. As for those who did play full seasons, Nik Stauskas earned the immortal nickname “Sauce Castillo,” but failed to be anywhere near the lights-out shooter we hoped he might be. Meanwhile, Dante Exum looked tentative and nervous as he faced NBA defenses for the first time. It wasn’t all bad, Wiggins would win Rookie of the Year, and Marcus Smart is already a great defender, but in general, this class fell far short of its massive expectations in year one.