2014 was awful. We knew it would be awful, and it was still hard to stomach. The only thing that lessened the sting was the hope that Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins would be waiting at the end of our tunnel of misery. They were not (although I am cautiously optimistic about Dante Exum).
We should be better in 2015, but in the much more competitive West, I still don't think we are anywhere near a playoff team. Some of our players should still show improvement, I think Trey Burke in particular should be better shooting with his finger more fully healed. Exum may take some time to develop as he is ultra-talented, but still only 19 years old. Bottom line we are more than likely going to spend the year in lottery position. There aren't any players with the media hype that Wiggins or Parker were getting, but there are some exciting players to keep an eye on.
In particular, 2015 offers more potentially exciting centers and big men than we have seen in recent years. I have been keeping tabs on some of them for a few years and have been excited about their development. Here are a few players to keep an eye on, and get excited about.
Note, I am including links to videos, but highlight videos against high school kids should obviously always be taken with a grain of salt. Watching 7 footers dunk on and swat the shots of kids half their size isn't particularly impressive, but some of their skill sets that can translate to the next levels is observable.
1. Myles Turner - 6'11" 240 pounds, 7'4" wingspan. Will be playing for Texas. Turner can stretch defenses with legitimate 3 point range, and a deft touch around the basket for a seven footer. Can play inside and out, sometimes chooses to play too much on the perimeter for a big man. Length and timing could make him great defensively. Set USA u18 record for blocks in FIBA tournament with 18 in 5 games. Reportedly the only defender to give Jahlil Okafor problems in a competitive setting. Quick hands defensively. Early criticisms were that he was too slender, but has bulked up to 242 pounds in the summer, and could conceivably put on more strength and muscle weight with his collegiate and then professional strength and conditioning program. Early mocks have him all over the board, from as high as 4-5, to as low as 16 or not even in listed in some. Didn't always take over games scoring in high school, but questionable guard play and inability to get him the ball could have been one contributing factor.
2. Karl Towns - 7'0" 245 pounds, 7'4" wingspan. Kentucky. Skilled big man. Can put the ball on the floor and take it to the hole. Moves very well for seven footer. Range out to nba 3. Great length could be a defensive force, but doesn't always assert himself as much on this end of the floor. Good rebounder in his area, average outside of his area, but could show improvement in this facet of his game. At times has a tendency to hang around the perimeter too much and doesn't impact the game as much as he could offensively around the rim. With his size, wingspan, mobility he could be a force down low if he asserted himself more. While he has decent weight for his size, 245-250 pounds, he does look a little soft. If he chisels out, he could be a scary player.
(Kentucky also got 6'10" Trey Lyles, and return 7 footers Willie Cauley Stein and Dakari Johnson,and 6'10" Marcus Lee, all of which could potentially be first round draft picks. With so many guys in their front court, there may not be enough touches for all to show their potential, and some talented Wildcats could therefore see their stock take a hit)
3. Jahlil Okafor 6'11" 270 pounds, 7'5" wingspan. Duke. Getting lots of early love in mock drafts. Was the McDonalds all-american game mvp. Not a personal fan from what I've seen in his career so far. Played with Jabari Parker AAU team in Chicago. Great size. Effective with spin moves in the paint. Slow, doesn't rebound out of his area, gets taken advantage of defensively, makes a lot of "ostertag-like" clumsy play, then turns around and shows a variety of post moves and soft touches. Will probably be a very effective scorer in college, and a double digit scorer in the pros, but he could struggle to be a dominant scorer, as so far in his career, he has been able to be bigger and stronger than everyone else. He is a solid 270 pounds, but doesn't look to be in great shape, and, at the nba level, will find defenders who are just as tall, and more solid and athletic. He could still be a legitimate candidate for the #1 overall pick, but until I watch him more in college, I'm not yet sold.