With less than 5 days until the 2015 NBA Draft in Barclays, and with more rumors and speculation heating up, what will the first round of the draft look like?
1: Timberwolves- C/PF Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky. In my first two mock drafts, I had Karl-Anthony Towns going first, and it only makes sense. Towns is considered the best player in the draft by many NBA scouts, and should be selected first overall. The 7 footer can play both power forward and center, and can score in multiple ways. He can get points in the low post, and has a reliable jumpshot. Towns can even knock down a few threes at the NBA level if needed. KAT was able to drive to the rim successfully in college and can handle the ball relatively well for a big man. He is very efficient on the defensive end, where he can block shots, rebound, and read the passing lanes. Towns’ skill set is similar to that of Jahlil Okafors, but what separates the two is Towns’ higher ceiling. Okafor will make the bigger impact immediately, but Towns’ potential to become an elite post-scorer and defender in the NBA plus his ability to stretch the floor makes Karl-Anthony Towns the ideal first pick for the Timberwolves.
2: Lakers- C Jahlil Okafor, Duke. Jahlil Okafor is skilled low-post scorer who can rebound well and play solid defense, he was able to rebound well, score efficiently, and play solid defense during Duke’s National Championship run, and will immediately help the Lakers alongside PF Julius Randle. Okafor’s game is not fully polished, though. He shot an atrocious 51% from the free throw line in college, and scouts have questioned his passion for the game, and if he is willing to put in enough practice to become elite. Questions about Okafor’s work ethic do not overshadow his ability to score in the low post and rebound, making him the pick for the Lakers at 2nd overall.
3: 76ers- PF Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia. Kristaps Porzingis, the 7 footer out of Latvia, is not the first of his kind. Other European stretch fours, such as Darko Milicic, and Andrea Bargnani, have not fared well in the NBA. Porzingis is mainly a shooter, and in my opinion, does not have a skill set that will play out in the association. However, Porzingis has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki, and one scout even called him “the best player in the draft”. I have trouble convincing myself that Kristaps Porzingis will be the best player in the draft, or that he will live up to the abilities of all-time great PF Dirk Nowitzki, but, he impressed the Sixers at his workout, and maybe they’ve seen something from him we haven’t. Therefore I see Philly selecting him with the 3rd pick.
4: Knicks- G D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State. Last week, Russell’s agent announced that his client had cancelled his workout with the 76ers, meaning one of two things, either that the Sixers had promised to select him 3rd overall, or that D’Angelo wants no part of Philadelphia. With more and more speculation that the Sixers want Porzingis with the 3rd overall pick, it’s more likely that Russell is not interested in playing with the Sixers, which could be one of the reasons why Philly prefers Porzingis to Russell. Should Russell fall to 4, the Knicks would be thrilled to select a combo guard with such high potential. Russell can score in the paint, has a reliable jumpshot, and will be to be a playmaker in the NBA. With New York in dire need of a reliable guard, D’Angelo Russell is the pick for the Knicks at 4.
5: Magic- SG/SF Justise Winslow, Duke. Winslow is pick for the Magic 5th overall. If Kristaps Porzingis is gone, I have the Magic picking Justise Winslow. Orlando needs both shooting and defense, which Winslow brings. Much like Andre Iguodala in these past finals, Winslow can become the 3 and D player the Magic need, along with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, and Nikola Vucevic, to build up a roster with potential to become a playoff team in a few years.
6: Kings- PG Emmanuel Mudiay, China. The Kings have needed a point guard for some time now, and it seems like Mudiay will be the pick for Sacramento if he’s available at 6. Mudiay has struggled with his shooting, he put up an awful 58% from the line last year. Mudiay has drawn comparisons to Derrick Rose and John Wall, as he has potential to be the league’s next explosive point guard if he improves his shooting, and limits his turnovers. He averaged 3 turnovers in China, and if he wants to be an elite point guard in the NBA he needs to handle the ball better. If the Kings believe in Mudiay’s upside, he is the pick for Sacramento at 6th overall.
7: Nuggets- SF Mario Hezonja, Croatia. The 6’8 forward from Croatia would be a welcome addition to the Denver Nuggets, who lacked perimeter shooting last year. Hezonja can play both shooting guard and small forward, shoot off the pass, create his own shot, and passes well for someone who’s 6’8. Hezonja has been noted to lack defensive focus at times, and is not the most consistent scorer. Mario Hezonja has potential to be a great shooter in the NBA if he improves his consistency, and that makes him the pick for the Nuggets.
8: Pistons- C Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky. Cauley-Stein has potential to be a defensive anchor on the Pistons alongside Andre Drummond. WCS can be used a replacement for Greg Monroe if he leaves Detroit in Free Agency. The Pistons would be taking a risk selecting Cauley-Stein here, showing Monroe that they expect him to leave, and have already selected his replacement. If Monroe does stay in Detroit, WCS can come off the bench some games, and learn from Drummond and Monroe, and if one is injured, Cauley-Stein can start for the Pistons. With Monroe expected to leave this summer, the Pistons need to be prepared to replace him with Willie Trill Cauley-Stein, the 7 footer out of Kentucky.
9: Hornets trade pick to Celtics, Celtics select SF Stanley Johnson, Arizona. In this trade, Boston would swap their 16th and 28th pick for Charlotte’s 9th pick. Selecting Stanley Johnson brings versatility to the Celtics, while the Hornets receive a middle and late first round pick to make up for losing the 9th pick. If the Hornets really want a veteran, they can ask for Evan Turner, but they probably won’t get him, considering the Celtics just signed him last year, and since he was efficient on both offense and defense last season.
10: Heat- SG Devin Booker, Kentucky. If Miami is able to keep PG Goran Dragic this summer, the backcourt of him and Booker along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would help the Heat win games right away. Booker can create his own shot and play perimeter defense. Keeping a good player at the SG position needs to be a priority for the heat, with Dwyane Wade’s contract talks at a halt. Even if Wade remains in Miami, he’s not going to be healthy for the whole of the season, making Devin Booker the pick for the Miami Heat at 10.
11: Pacers- C Myles Turner, Texas.
12: Jazz- SF Sam Dekker, Wisconsin.
13: Suns- SG/SF Kelly Oubre, Kansas.
14: Thunder- PF Trey Lyles, Kentucky.
15: Hawks- PF Kevon Looney, UCLA.
16: Celtics trade pick to Hornets, Hornets select SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona.
17: Bucks: C Robert Upshaw, Washington.
18: Rockets: PG Tyus Jones, Duke.
19: Wizards: PF Montrezl Harrell, Louisville.
20: Raptors: PF Bobby Portis, Arkansas.
21: Mavericks: PG Cameron Payne, Murray State.
22: Bulls: C Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin.
23: Trail Blazers: SG RJ Hunter, Georgia State.
24: Cavaliers: SG/SF Justin Anderson, Virginia.
25: Grizzlies: PG Jerian Grant, Notre Dame.
26: Spurs: SG Rashad Vaughn, UNLV.
27: Lakers: PG Terry Rozier, Louisville.
28: Celtics trade pick to Hornets, Hornets select PF Jarell Martin, LSU.
29: Nets: PG Delon Wright, Utah.
30: Warriors: PF Christian Wood, UNLV.