There have been several notable players taken 15th overall in the NBA draft. Steve Nash (1996) has the most win shares by all players taken at that position since 1951, followed by Al Jefferson (2004) and Brent Barry (1995). Among the more recent No. 15 standouts, all-stars Kawhi Leonard (2011) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2013), as well as Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre (2015), have made their imprint in the league.
These were players who barely missed out on being lottery selections but were part of their teams’ rotations during parts of their rookie seasons. The latest No. 15 pick, Washington’s Troy Brown Jr., joins this list. But while he may share a draft number with his veteran peers, it remains to be seen if he will make a similar impact on the court in his first year.
The Wizards went with the surprising selection of Brown — the second-youngest player taken by the franchise in the modern lottery era (which began in 1985) — with apparent sights on the future. While the team has glaring needs for shooting, rebounding, perimeter defense and improved athleticism at the four and five spots, Washington chose to groom a wing player who could conceivably need years to develop.
After proclaiming Brown as a “guy that we’ve been targeting,” team officials would not outright declare him to be ready for the rotation.
“That’s going to be up to him,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said Thursday night while speaking with reporters. “We have a veteran team here and we have 10 guys coming back under contract … but the opportunity is always there, and if he earns it, he’ll play. Hopefully, as the season progresses, he’ll get better and better and he’ll get some minutes.”
Since 2006, every player selected 15th overall either appeared in more than half of the 82-game regular season or played in the starting lineup during their inaugural years. Only Adreian Payne, who was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2014, played less than half the season, but after he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in February 2015, he started 22 of the final 29 games of his rookie season.
As first-round picks, these players were raised through game experience and often made a significant impact on their rosters; during the 2012 playoffs, Leonard elevated to the San Antonio Spurs’ starting lineup as the team advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
However, judging by comments made by the Wizards, the streak of No. 15 picks getting significant playing time may snap next season.
“Who knows? Minutes are there. You’ve got to earn them first, we’re not just going to give him minutes,” Coach Scott Brooks said, “but he has the skill set, he has the I.Q., he has the versatility. If things continue to progress the way we think we can, he might be able to see some time.”
The conservative phrasing by Grunfeld and Brooks — “hopefully, as the season progresses” and “if things continue” — indicate the team’s reluctance to burden Brown with high expectations. Especially since the team identity will be set for the next several years.
The Wizards’ foundation is rooted in maximum-salary players in all-stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with Otto Porter Jr. While Wall will turn 28 before the start of his ninth NBA season, the team’s core remains a young, veteran group. Stealing minutes from any of those players simply won’t happen unless a surprising development dictates a change.
Washington has even more wing depth on its bench in Oubre and Tomas Satoransky. Although Satoransky received a low workload during the playoffs, he started 30 games in place of Wall then returned to the second unit to play off the ball and even some minutes in the three spot. So, while Brown has burgeoning skills all around the court, he may see more time with the player development coaches on the practice court than he will against veteran opponents in regular-season games.
“I would say first just coming in with an open mind-set, especially with the coaching staff,” Brown said when asked about his most pressing matters as an incoming rookie. “That’s the biggest thing, being able to come in and be a guy that’s very coachable and listen to my staff, especially at such a young age. I definitely have some progress I need to make. I’m definitely all ears here coming in and just trying to make the team better and do whatever I can to get on the floor.”
Read more on the NBA draft: