We’ve reached the end of the 2015 Franchise Player Draft here at Today’s Fastbreak. Picks 1-25 are as follows: Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard, Andre Drummond, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Rudy Gobert, John Wall, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Draymond Green, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Love, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward.
26. Marc Gasol by Haddon Anderson
If you’re reading this, I’m surprised. Marc Gasol isn’t a flashy player, so it’s totally unsurprising if most skip over this blurb. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a great pick, especially at No. 26. Gasol was the All-NBA First Team center last season, and he was also the Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He’s anchored the Memphis Grizzlies on both ends of the floor, often sparking them to more success than many forecasted in a deep Western Conference.
So why did an All-NBA First Team player slide this far? Well, he’s 30. This is reason for many to shy away from the big Spaniard. But here’s the thing: Gasol has never relied on athleticism, and this bodes well for his longevity. He’s smart, fundamental and savvy. These traits will remain even as he ages. Furthermore, his brother Pau was just an All-Star at the age of 34. This is a good sign for Big Marc. It’s reasonable to think he has another four or five really good years left.
Plus, there’s something to be said about having a “win-now” mentality. I recognize the focus on the future in a franchise article, but Gasol is currently more valuable than the majority of the players selected before him. He can solidify the interior on my squad while I look to surround him with the right pieces on the perimeter. There’s much to like here.
Follow Haddon on Twitter @HaddonAnderson
27. DeAndre Jordan by Ari Temkin
DeAndre Jordan is the modern NBA’s perfect center.
He’s hyper-athletic, can play uptempo and is an excellent shot blocker, rebounder and finisher.
He’s also still just 27 years old and a top rim protector in the NBA. Not to mention he’s extremely durable, as he’s appeared in every possible game over the last four years.
Scoring is the most important aspect of building a franchise, but Jordan’s ability to erase scoring makes him a steal at 27.
Follow Ari on Twitter @arisports
28. Al Horford by Jonathan Asaad
With the multifaceted Al Horford as my team’s centerpiece, it has the luxury of playing any style. The 6’10” big man’s game knows no bounds. He has the intelligence and skill level to adapt to any environment, group of teammates or coach.
If my team needs to leverage Horford’s shooting ability, the big man will provide pristine floor spacing , as he hit a superb 48.4 percent of his mid-range shots last season. In addition to his mid-range game, he shot a respectable 30 percent from deep for a big man, including an impressive 36 percent from beyond the arc a couple seasons ago. He’s inventive with creating space for himself, using jab steps, step backs and swing-through moves to throw his defender off balance and get an open jumper. Not only can he knock down the mid-range jumper, but he’s also adept at driving past his disheveled defender for a layup or a dunk. He converted on a proficient 62 percent of his drives to the basket and made 71 percent of his field goals near the rim, per NBA.com/Stats.
Furthermore, Horford is an elite facilitator for his position should his team decide to run the offense through him. He can see over the defense like an oversized point guard and read plays as they develop. Horford is a deadly pick-and-roll player because not only can he score in a variety of ways, but he’s adroit at passing on the move in a way that few big men in the league can. Due to Horford’s accurate passing and ability to collapse the defense, Kyle Korver shot a ridiculous 66 percent from three-point range after receiving a pass from the big man.
Although he doesn’t strike most fans as a notable defender, Horford is a decent rim protector. In 2014, the Dominican forced opponents to shoot just 49.4 percent within six feet of the basket — an incredible 10.2 percentage points below their average from that distance. Horford is one of the most astute defenders in the league, able to switch onto smaller guards on the perimeter and protect the rim on the same defensive possession. His long and active hands often deflect balls that are seemingly out of reach and stymie pick-and-roll actions.
Furthermore, with his selfless and team-first approach, Horford will help establish a drama-free atmosphere in the locker room. Zach Lowe of Grantland delineated the big man’s devotion for selfless play in a must-read article.
His basketball IQ, humility and immaculate game make Horford a sterling building block for my hypothetical team.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JohnnyAsada
29. Dwight Howard by Shawn Woods
With the second-to-last pick, most of the players who are considered “Franchise Players” were gone. Serge Ibaka, Gordon Hayward and Kevin Love were players I was targeting at this pick, but all were drafted before I made my selection. This left just two players who I felt like I could draft at this spot, Nerlens Noel and Dwight Howard. Noel might be the only young, big man who can compete defensively with Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert, but his offensive game is lacking.
This really left me with Howard as the only feasible option to consider a franchise player. His demeanor may annoy some, but the stats speak for themselves. He was hurt for most of last season, but still managed to average 16 points, 14 rebounds and over two blocks in the playoffs while shooting nearly 58 percent. His rim protection numbers looked more like his Orlando days, as he allowed opponents to shoot only 45 percent at the rim on over nine attempts per game, per SportVU. Another season paired with James Harden’s improvement could help draw attention away from Howard, causing his efficiency to climb. Howard could also thrive with Houston’s acquisition of Ty Lawson this summer.
Knowing all the obvious caveats that come with Lawson, he handed out almost 10 assists per game without a lob threat resembling anything Howard can bring. Lawson could help recreate some of the same chemistry that Howard had with former Rocket Chandler Parsons during his 2013-2014 campaign.
His age is a concern (he’ll turn 30 in December), but there are few players who make teams immediate contenders, and while Howard might not be at that level at this point in his career, he’s as close as one can expect at this pick.
Follow Shawn on Twitter @shawn_woods15
30. Mike Conley by Chad Waters
With the 30th and last pick in the draft, I’m taking Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley.
Conley is regularly referred to as one of the most underrated players in the NBA, so often that he may actually be close to being overrated because he’s mentioned as underrated so frequently.
I’d rank him as the sixth-best point guard in the NBA. I’m not a fan of his underrated label because everyone should’ve known Conley was really good before he torched the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs with a broken face and busted foot. He’s someone I want on my team because he’s one of the toughest players in the league, and he’s a pass-first point guard who can score when he needs to do so.
Conley’s per-game numbers don’t leap off the page, but he can shoot threes, run an offense and defend well for a point guard. He doesn’t surrender anything offensively or defensively, which is a skill in and of itself. He’s a floor general who keeps himself and his offense under control at all times, so picking this late, I’m glad to snag him at No. 30.
Follow Chad on Twitter @RCWaters333