The 2015 NBA Draft Class hasn’t received the preseason and in-season hype that last years did, but it may very well have be just as many impact players. From the great freshman to the grizzled veterans, the NCAA (and the world) are oozing with talent looking for its chance in the league.
As we approach the NCAA tournament, here are my initial prospect rankings. Keep an eye out for some of these guys, but remember, it’s ridiculous to judge a prospect based off of a few tourney games. These are just my opinions, man.
7 guys I like but don’t think will/should go in the 1st round.
Isaiah Taylor, PG, Texas: Taylor still doesn’t shoot very well, and his slim frame will become an issue when asked to guard strong PG’s, but he’s perhaps the fastest player in college up and down the court, with or without the ball. The main concern here is that he hasn’t improved all that much during his sophomore year. But his ability to push the pace and finish in the paint could make him an important part of a bench.
Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin: Many are saying Dekker, one the NCAA’s most efficient scorers, has played his way into the first round. I don’t agree. His 3pt shooting has gotten worse every year he’s been at Wisconsin and he lacks the ability to create his own shot or move laterally on defense, two very important skills for an NBA SF. But Dekker is a strong, underrated athlete who makes smart plays and is deadly in the paint. If he can turn himself into an NBA-level 3pt threat, Dekker should be in for a long pro career.
Perry Ellis, PF, Kansas: Perry Ellis will probably return to Kansas for his senior year, and I get why. At just 6′ 8″, he’s too small to be a conventional post player. And he hasn’t developed the perimeter skills to be a 3. But his long arms should help him on defense, as well as his feel for the game and flawless rotations. Offensively, Ellis is an efficient scorer with great touch and a killer mid-range jumper. He’s shown some willingness to step outside and shoot. If he can develop a decent shot from NBA range, I really like him as an offensive player.
R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State: A lights out shooter, perhaps the best in the country. The current junior has been a dynamite scorer ever since entering college (despite a relative slump this season), and will probably go back for his senior year. But remember the name. In a league where the 3pt shot is more valuable than ever, there’s demand for guys like Hunter. He’s not a terrible defender and being 6′ 5″ with decent length will allow him to theoretically guard 2’s off the bench.
Chris Walker, SF/PF, Florida: I get it. Walker has been HORRIBLE during his career in Gainesville. He hasn’t tapped into his freakish athletic ability to develop anything offensively. He looks lost on defense. He’s good for a block and few boards a game, nothing more. This is all true. But we’re talking about a 6′ 9″, 20-year old kid with a 7′ 2″ wingspan who will surely wow people whenever his vertical is officially measured. If you’re selling all your Chris Walker stock, I’ll gladly buy it on the low.
Gary Payton II, PG/SG, Oregon State: Yes, this kid is the son of The Glove aka the guy who guarded MJ better than anybody aka the most underrated player of the last 25 years. Gary Payton II, the Oregon State standout, is also a terrific defensive player who scores in savvy ways and crashes the boards (7.5 rebounds per game?!?!?!?). Payton II is 22, which limits his upside despite his impressive athleticism. But he’s just a reliable jumper away from being a very potent NBA-bench guard capable of guarding both spots.
Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse: More so than Rakeem Christmas, the freshman McCullough jumps out at me whenever I see the Orange play. He’s got prototypical size for an NBA PF, and is a very good athlete who can do it all (score efficiently, rebound, protect the paint). He’s been quite productive for a mediocre team. If Syracuse was a bigger part of the national conversation, I think McCullough would be receiving much more attention from draft analysts. I think he can slide into the first, if he declares.
So let’s get into the top 30. The guys I feel SHOULD be first-round picks.
#30. Terran Petteway, SF, Nebraska (Jr. 6′ 6″, 215)
Stats: 18.2 ppg, 39.6% FG, 31.3% 3pt, 4.9 rpg, 2.8 apg
Pros: A pure scorer with NBA-caliber athleticism. Seems to have the “clutch gene” if such a thing actually exists. Effective in the fast break and is hard to stop when he decides he wants to attack the rim. Despite being a volume scorer, has decent shot selection. Should be able to develop NBA 3pt range based on his stroke. Gets to the line with ease. Competent defensively.
Cons: Turns it over way too much (3.4 per) and can be too antsy sometimes. 22 years old which raises questions about his upside. Has never had to adjust to a situation where he’s not the go-to guy.
Final Verdict: If drafted by a team that likes to run, I truly feel that Petteway can carry a second unit one day with his scoring. He’s never going to impress you with his efficiency, but he knows how to score from all three levels.
#29. Cliff Alexander, PF, Kansas (Fr. 6′ 8″, 245)
Stats: 7.1 ppg, 56.6% FG, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Pros: His 7′ 2″ wingspan paired with his sheer physical strength can be a lot handle. He should be able to beat people up both with screens and on the glass. On a per-minute basis, is one of the NCAA’s best rebounders. Plays hard. Valuable defensively in the paint due to his length.
Cons: Height is not ideal for an NBA 4. Has virtually NO offensive game. Lacks post moves, a jumper, or skills with the ball in his hands. Going back to his jumper, Cliff literally can’t hit a shot from outside 5 feet away from the rim. Not a great athlete.
Final Verdict: Given that he didn’t start hooping until high school, there’s reason to think that Alexander will improve both as an athlete and offensive player. But he’s a LONG way away from being capable of playing meaningful NBA minutes. I like his upside as banger, though.
#28. Frank Kaminsky, PF, Wisconsin (Sr. 7′ 0″, 235)
Stats: 18.4 ppg, 55.9% FG, 41.0% 3pt, 8.1 rpg, 2.6 apg
Pros: Is a true seven-footer and a VERY skilled one at that. Surefire player of the year in college basketball, or at least he should be. Has improved tremendously every year. A better ball-handler than you’d expect. Is effective with either hand when he gets inside. Tight footwork helps hide his lack of athleticism. Smart player who doesn’t force things and passes well. Very effective as a rebounder at the college level. Shows no hesitation shooting over defenders in the mid-range.
Cons: Very VERY slow with is feet, in both directions. Lacks explosiveness. Has really struggled at camps in an open-floor game when he’s not playing in the Badgers system. Not quick enough to guard 4’s and not strong enough to guard 5’s. Doesn’t project as a guy who can create his own shot.
Final Verdict: I’m not nearly as high on Kaminsky as most. Love him as a college player, but I don’t see him being all that effective in the league on either end. He won’t have as extreme of a size advantage in the NBA, and that will expose his complete lack of athleticism. Comparing him to Dirk is just ridiculous and, frankly, a little bit racist.
#27. Tyus Jones, PG, Duke (Fr. 6′ 1″, 190)
Stats: 11.8 ppg, 42.4% FG, 40.0% 3pt, 5.7 apg, 3.7 rpg
Pros: Brilliant passer in both the open floor and in the pick-n-roll game in the halfcourt. Hardly ever turns it over considering how much he handles the ball. Shooting was a concern coming out of HS but he’s been deadly from beyond the arc and has shown NBA range. Doesn’t seem to ever get nervous or lose control of his own game. His first step and finishing ability make him a better scorer than you’d expect from someone his size.
Cons: He’s small and isn’t really an impressive athlete, by NBA standards. His short arms and slender frame make him a major liability defensively IN COLLEGE. Not considered an “upside” guy due to his size and lack of explosiveness.
Final Verdict: While I’m lower on Kaminsky than most, I’m much higher on Tyus Jones. He’s probably going back to Duke. Hell, he might stay for four years. But I do think he has an NBA future as a backup PG who can facilitate the offense off the bench. His continued improvement as a shooter will be key.
#26. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona (6′ 7″, 215)
Stats: 11.2 ppg, 52.3% FG, 6.5 rpg
Pros: Outstanding vertical athlete who plays above the rim on both ends. A great shock blocker for a perimeter player. 7′ 1″ wingspan at least. NBA-ready athleticism and body. Even if he doesn’t improve, will be an NBA player for his defensive ability. Plays within himself.
Cons: Needs to greatly improve his jumper or guys in the league are just going to play off him canceling out some of his athleticism. For now, is just a finisher. Doesn’t have the handle to maximize his athletic ability.
Final Verdict: RHJ is ready to go in an NBA game right now and defend wings/chip in on the break. However, if he ever wants to be anything more than a solid defender good for some crazy dunks, he needs to develop his all-around skills dramatically. He’ll impress during athletic testing and I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone get giddy and grab him in the lottery.
#25. Shawn Long, PF, Louisiana-Lafayette (Jr. 6′ 9″, 250)
Stats: 17.0 ppg, 54.1% FG, 36.6% 3pt, 10.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg
Pros: Big and strong enough to play inside in the league. Very very skilled on the interior. Great hands, plethora of post-moves, improving face-up game. Soft touch on his jumper. As good of a positional player as anybody in the country.
Cons: Not a great vertical athlete or crazy-long. Figures to be a less dominant rebounder against better players. Probably won’t give you anything as a rim protector. Has played against weak competition so it’s tough to evaluate.
Final Verdict: I think Shawn Long is a pretty safe bet to be a decent NBA rotational big, and that’s why I have a first round grade on him. He does just about everything well and can score in a variety of ways. Generally, he’s considered more of a second round prospect but if I’m a contending team picking late in the 1st I’d rather take Long than a more athletic but less skilled player who might be out of the league in two years.
#24 Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville (So. 6′ 1″, 190)
Stats: 17.1 ppg, 41.1% FG, 31.0% 3pt, 5.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.0 spg,
Pros: Potent scorer with great moves off the dribble to create his own shot. A much better 3pt shooter than his percentages from this year indicate. Very good athlete both vertically and laterally. Plays bigger than his size. Long arms (might measure in w/ a 6′ 7″ wingspan). Has natural PG skills.
Cons: Has struggled with the transition to full-time PG. Can force it at times. Averages nearly a turnover for every assist. Can get into the paint but struggles finishing. Might not have a natural position, as he’s probably too little to guard 2’s but hasn’t developed much as a 1.
Final Verdict: If Rozier can touch up his shot selection, he should have a career as a guy who can carry a bench unit with his scoring. Rick Pitino has tried to make him a PG but I’m not sure that suits his skill set in the NBA. I think his length and quickness will allow him to get by defensively. If he can get stronger and therefore finish at the rim better, he’ll be tough to stop.
#23. Jordan Mickey, PF, LSU (SO. 6′ 8″, 235)
Stats: 16.0 ppg, 51.7% FG, 9.9 rpg, 3.7 bpg
Pros: Extremely productive SEC player in every facet of the game. His leaping ability, length (7′ 2″ wingspan), and outstanding timing make him one of the countries best shot blockers despite being just 6′ 8″. He’s improved a ton offensively, developing a mid-range jumper and some quick post moves. Non-stop motor. Freakish ability to jump quickly, almost immediately upon landing. As an overall athlete, Mickey’s as impressive as any PF in this draft.
Cons: Size is obviously less than ideal and he hasn’t shown the perimeter skills to think he could play minutes at the 3. Not as strong as you would think. Still not anywhere where he needs to be offensively.
Final Verdict: If he continues to improve, I think Mickey will survive in the league despite his height due to his length and superb leaping ability. At the very worst, I think you’re getting a Kenneth Faried-type guy. Mickey is another player that I seem to be a little higher on than everybody else, however.
#22. Devin Booker, SG/SF, Kentucky (Fr. 6′ 6″, 205)
Stats: 10.9 ppg, 47.7% FG, 43.6% 3pt,
Pros: Everything you want in a shooter: beautiful stroke that he gets off quickly and consistently, moves exceptionally without the ball, and he jumps pretty high when he shoots which helps him overcome his short wingspan. Plays great within the flow of the offense.
Cons: Not a superb athlete or ball-handler, which makes it hard for him to get to the rim or create his own jumper. Panics inside the arc and takes too many fadeaways. Not a good defender at this point but might be able to develop into at least an average one.
Final Verdict: Booker is a pure shooter who fills a very important role for the Wildcats. He’s incredibly polished and smart for a freshman. He lacks the upside some of the other Kentucky guys have, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Booker become one of the top scorers from this draft 3-4 years down the road, assuming he declares.
#21 Buddy Hield, SG, Oklahoma (Jr. 6′ 4″, 210)
Stats: 17.5 ppg, 42.1% FG, 38.4% 3pt, 5.4 rpg
Pros: Great shooter from deep. 6′ 8″ wingspan. Not explosive, but a smooth and efficient athlete who understands angles which helps him as a driver. Finishes well. Decent enough defender. Should have no problem finding his points in the league.
Cons: A bit undersized for an NBA wing. Doesn’t blow you away athletically and isn’t really an open-floor player. While he hits 3’s and finishes well, his in between game needs work. Will never be a great defender in the NBA.
Final Verdict: At the very worst, Hield projects as a knockdown shooter. Much like Devin Booker, he knows how to work in order to get off good shots from deep. In today’s NBA, that makes him a valuable asset.
#20. Kristaps Porzingis (19 years old 7′ 1″, 220)
Stats: 10.6 ppg, 49.5% FG, 37.1% 3pt, 4.4 rpg (stats from Spanish ACB)
Pros: Very very tall with long arms. Pretty good handle and skills on the perimeter, which is where he plays. Fluid athlete. Good shooter who can get his shot up in a variety of scenarios due to his height. Has good feet and moves well defensively.
Cons: Very very skinny and he simply is scared to go inside, which leads to some bad mid-range attempts. Has to develop some post moves. Not necessarily an explosive athlete. While he’s just 19, it’s hard to see him really improving all that much in any area.
Final Verdict: Have limited access to Porzingis, obviously. But from the video I’ve seen, I don’t really see the hype that has some saying he’s a surefire top 10 pick. He does have an intriguing skill set, but he’s a LONG way away from being ready to play NBA minutes.
#19. Justin Anderson, SG/SF, Virginia (Jr. 6′ 6″, 225)
Stats: 12.8 ppg, 47.5% FG, 48.4% 3pt, 4.2 rpg
Pros: Ideal body for an NBA SG. All-around impressive athlete: he’s strong, quick laterally, and can get up. Has developed into a knockdown shooter from deep but one who only takes smart shots. A very very good defender.
Cons: Athleticism isn’t a concern but it’s not a strength either. Outside of deep shooting, lacks skills offensively. Can’t really create his own shot. Is probably about as good right now as he’s ever going to be.
Final Verdict: Give me Justin Anderson as a 3-n-D guy at the next level. He won’t have a problem handling NBA guards and if he can focus on those things exclusively, defense and shooting, he could become an excellent role player.
#18. Christian Wood, PF, UNLV (So. 6′ 11″, 220)
Stats: 15.7 ppg, 49.7% FG, 28.4% 3pt, 10.0 rpg, 2.7 bpg
Pros: NBA-height with good length. Has developed some solid shooting range and his shot is nearly impossible to block (think LeMarcus Aldridge). A good athlete. Knows how to rebound and rotate. A very good shot blocker. All of these skills should hold up in the league due to his height/length.
Cons: Needs to bulk up because he gets pushed around, which will be an even more extreme weakness in the league. He’s got a good shot, but he’ll need to continue to stretch his range to be a versatile scorer in the NBA.
Final Verdict: There’s a lot to like about Christian Wood. Just his nice J on a body like that screams NBA potential. He’ll need to get stronger, but seeing as he’s just a sophomore, that’s not a major concern for me. I don’t think the lottery is or should be out of the question for him.
#17. Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville (Jr. 6′ 8″, 240)
Stats: 15.7 ppg, 57.1% FG, 9.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 1.0 spg
Pros: His 7′ 4″ wingspan combined with his elite leaping ability causes problems for opponents on both ends of the floor. Great physical strength and uses it well. Impeccable timing on putbacks and alley-oops. Developing a face-up game and jump shot. Runs the floor very well for a 240-pounder. Good body control.
Cons: Has made improvements but is still quite raw offensively. Jumper goes in sometimes but looks ugly. Doesn’t have much of a post-up game. Fouls too much and gets caught out of position defensively. Too short for an NBA big (though his length helps). Gets rebounds from his jumping rather than getting good position.
Final Verdict: Harrell has improved a bit over the years but the fact that he’s still so one-dimensional offensively gives me concern for how much better he’s ever going to get. He’s an explosive athlete who, much like Jordan Mickey, should be able to find work in the NBA regardless of his development but if he ever wants to become more than bench guy he needs to get a lot better on both ends.
#16. Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame (Sr. 6′ 5″, 205)
Stats: 16.7 ppg, 49.2% FG, 33.1% 3pt, 6.7 apg, 3.0 rpg
Pros: One of the most productive guards in college basketball. Is a true PG so his size is a major bonus. Great ball-handler and a smart, conservative, passer. Good at the rim and a solid jump shooter. Great one-on-one player. Good defender capable of guarding either spot. Just a solid overall player.
Cons: Still forces his own shot at times, though he’s gotten better over the years. Given his size he should try to get to the rim more than he does. Not a great athlete and his lack of lateral quickness could really hurt him at the next level.
Final Verdict: Grant is a good basketball player who is going to find a role in the NBA somewhere. Given his weird game and lack of quickness, I’m not sure that role is as a starting PG. But his skill at his size should make him a solid combo-guard.
#15. Delon Wright, PG, Utah (Sr. 6′ 5″, 190)
Stats: 14.8 ppg, 52.6% FG, 36.2% 3pt, 5.3 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.1 spg
Pros: Do-it-all player who really is a PG with great size. He uses his size well when attacking the hoop. Tight handle. A great passer in the Pick-n-Roll and his size allows him to see the entire floor at all times. Pretty damn athletic. Has improved a lot as a shooter and should continue to do so. Good instincts defensively.
Cons: Needs to get stronger and less afraid of contact. Not much of a left hand. Hasn’t shown great lateral movement and he lets quicker guards blow by him too much. Shot still needs some work. Is 22.
Final Verdict: I’m a big fan of Wright as I think all of his weaknesses are easily fixable. You don’t find 6′ 5″ guys with legit PG skills very often. He’s helped rejuvenate the Utah program and I don’t think it’s out of the question for him to go in the lottery.
#14. Kris Dunn, PG, Providence (So. 6′ 3″, 205)
Stats: 15.5 ppg, 48.0% FG, 34.3% 3pt, 7.5 apg, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 spg
Pros: One of the most all-around productive players in the country. Has really gotten better as a shooter and distributor. ELITE defensively. Outstanding athletic ability and can be a one-man fastbreak. Ideal size for an NBA PG.
Cons: Biggest concerns are injury-related (has had two season-ending shoulder injuries) and those are even more serious due to how aggressively Dunn likes to play. He disappears at times, but as a player, he’s pretty well-rounded.
Final Verdict: I’m a BIG fan of Dunn. I think we’re talking about a starting-caliber PG if he can stay healthy. Seeing as he’s improved his shooting, it’s hard to find any real weaknesses in his game. I think Dunn is an impact talent, and if he drops into the 20’s like some are projecting, many teams are making a mistake.
#13. Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky (Fr. 6′ 10″, 240)
Stats: 8.3 ppg, 51.1% FG, 5.0 rpg
Pros: Great skill for his size. Handles the ball and passes it well. Has an outstanding mid-range J. Deadly faceup game. Pretty good in the post. Rebounds well. Can get down the floor on the break. Very good individual defender.
Cons: While a good defender, not much of a rim protector. Limited athleticism by NBA standards. Needs to play more physical. Not particularly quick.
Final Verdict: Lyles isn’t going to wow you with his upside but I have high hopes for him as a pro. He should be a very good pick-n-pop PF. Not many freshman bigs are as polished as Lyles. I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a decent NBA starter at some point.
#12. Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA (Fr. 6′ 9″, 220)
Stats: 12.1 ppg, 47.4% FG, 45.7% 3pt, 9.3 rpg
Pros: Physically talented and very skilled. Perhaps the best rebounder in college hoops. Is improving as a shooter and has a high release. Good length. Runs the floor well. Makes splash plays on defense.
Cons: Still relatively raw in terms of his post game and individual defensive ability. Needs to continue to improve as a shooter. Not a crazy athlete. Will have to get a little stronger. Relies too much on offensive boards for his points.
Final Verdict: Looney has all of the tools to become a solid NBA PF but is probably a year or two away from really being able to contribute. He’s unanimously considered a lottery talent though so it’s unlikely he goes back to UCLA. Looney doesn’t stand out on tape yet somehow produces every damn game.
#11. Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas (So. 6′ 10″, 240)
Stats: 17.8 ppg, 56.3% FG, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Pros: A “beast” for the lack of a better term. Tall, long and strong. Pretty skilled with the ball as well. Cannot be stopped when he gets momentum heading towards the hoop. Good mid-range shooter. Very good quickness; can step out to the perimeter at times on D. Great in transition.
Cons: Not an ELITE athlete. Post up game need a lot of work. Not much of a rim protector. Lack of vertical athleticism limits his upside a bit. Takes too many jumpers despite his ability to hit them.
Final Verdict: I don’t see any way Portis doesn’t become a solid NBA PF. He’s not a prototypical post-up scorer or insane athlete, but he’s a banger with a surprising amount of skill and a shot that will prove valuable in a modern league obsessed with floor-spacing. Probably good for 10 & 6 in the NBA right now.
#10. Kelly Oubre Jr., SG/SF, Kansas (Fr. 6′ 7″, 200)
Stats: 9.5 ppg, 45.3% FG, 36.5% 3pt, 5.1 rpg
Pros: Ideal height and length (7′ 2″ wingspan) for an NBA wing. VERY VERY good athlete. Has gotten a lot better defensively, with the potential to become elite there. Surprisingly good rebounder. Very good shooter who can create his own shot inside the arc. Has the physical tools of a dynamic NBA wing.
Cons: Started the year slow and is still a bit raw, it feels like he should be dominating but he’s not. Has to get stronger which should help his finishing ability. Seems to panic at times and rely on his floater rather than using his physical tools to get to the rim.
Final Verdict: Oubre looks a lot better now than he did early in the season. He has the tools to be a very good player at both ends of the floor in the NBA. There’s no way a wing with his talent falls out of the lottery and he’s a pretty safe bet for the top 10.
#9. Myles Turner, PF/C, Texas (Fr. 6′ 11″, 240)
Stats: 10.4 ppg, 46.0% FG, 6.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg
Pros: Big and long. Would be a physical specimen if playing the 4 spot, and more than big enough if playing the 5. Great catching ability and it’s hard to rip the ball out of his hands. Underrated skill set and faceup game. Good jump shot. Very good shot blocker.
Cons: Not very athletic or quick, which could possibly limit his ability to guard the 4. If he plays the 5, he could benefit from adding a few pounds. Numbers don’t look as good as you’d expect. Needs to get tougher, smaller players who have no business competing with him often knock him out of position. Doesn’t fight on the boards, relies on height.
Final Verdict: Given that he’s so young, I think some of the athletic concerns with Turner will be fixed by the NBA’s training system and by simply playing more basketball. He’s gigantic and very skilled, a rare talent. Has he underperformed a bit at Texas? Probably. But that’s not a reason for a talent like this to fall out of the top 10.
#8. Justise Winslow, SG/SF, Duke (Fr. 6′ 6″, 225)
Stats: 12.3 ppg, 47.8% FG, 39.6% 3pt, 5.8 rpg
Pros: Top-level athlete. Moves up and down the floor with ease, good lateral quickness, elite vertical ability. Uses athleticism well when driving and can bust off highlight-reel finishes. A good 3pt shooter off the catch. NBA-ready weight and wingspan, can physically compete right now. Smart player who doesn’t force things. Elite defender at the college level with the potential to carry that over to the pros.
Cons: Disappears at times. Is perhaps too unselfish. Needs to get better at shooting off the dribble and handling the ball.
Final Verdict: There’s not much to complain about with Winslow. He’s a great athlete and should transition to the league with ease. He’ll need to shore up his skill with the ball in his hands if he ever wants to be a great scorer, but regardless, he’s going to have a good career.
#7. Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia (20 years old, 6′ 8″, 215)
Stats: 8.5 ppg, 58.7% FG, 38.6% 3pt, 2.0 rpg (Turkish Airlines Euroleague)
Pros: Very athletic, both vertically and laterally. A good scorer who shows efficiency when he’s on the court. Many consider him the best Euro prospect in a long time. Can knock down jumpers from anywhere. Handles and passes well, allowing him to function as a point forward.
Cons: Teammates have publicly complained about him. Hasn’t produced like you would expect a top-10 prospect in the Euroleague to. Some are concerned with his lack of development over the last three years. Struggles defensively in isolation situations.
Final Verdict: I think I’m buying the Hezonja despite the lack of great tape on him. He really is an impressive athlete who shoots well. Maturity may be an issue, but from a sheer skill standpoint, he certainly has NBA talent. I’m basing a lot of this ranking off of what others say, as I only have a select few highlight reels to go by.
#6. Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky (Jr. 7′ 0″, 240)
Stats: 8.9 ppg, 58.8% FG, 6.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg
Pros: UNREAL lateral quickness for a seven-footer, steps out to the perimeter with ease. Plus-size and length for an NBA center. His strong hands help him on the glass and catching tough passes into the post. Very good shot blocker with great leaping ability. Keep plays alive, gets a lot of tip-ins. Shooting has improved and given his skill he should be able to develop some scoring moves.
Cons: Despite it being his third year in college, he hasn’t really developed too much offensively. Plays upright and can get bumped around. Simply cannot hit free throws at this point in his career.
Final Verdict: I like WCS because even if he never improves offensively, you’re guaranteed an elite rim protector who has the ability to step out and rotate all over the floor. You simply cannot overstate his defensive ability. It’s more than just shot blocking. Plenty of guys have carved out roles without much of an offensive game, why can’t WCS?
#5. Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona (Fr. 6′ 7″, 245)
Stats: 14.1 ppg, 45.4% FG, 36.7% 3pt, 6.6 rpg, 1.5 spg
Pros: Outrageous amount of strength, which helps him on both ends. Probably the best overall defender in the draft, he’s just flawless there. Good lateral quickness, great length, instincts, hands, etc. He would be one of the best defensive SF’s in the NBA right now. Very skilled with the ball in his hands. Plays within the flow of the offense. Has gotten better as a shooter.
Cons: Still needs serious improvement on his jumper. Not a crazy vertical athlete. Scoring potential might be a bit limited.
Final Verdict: At the very worst, Johnson is going to be a Tony Allen-type player, albeit much bigger. But his shot is improving and I really think the Kawhi Leonard comparisons are pretty accurate. Johnson is a safe pick, and one that brings some overall upside.
#4. D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG, Ohio State (Fr. 6′ 5″, 185)
Stats: 19.3 ppg, 45.9% FG, 41.6% 3pt, 5.2 apg, 5.6 rpg
Pros: Has the skill and size to dominate at whichever position his team chooses to throw him at. Smooth athlete. Pretty good passer for someone who hasn’t played a ton of point. Long arms make him a terror on D and allow him to get his killer jumper off easier. Great ball-handling ability. Difficult to handle one-on-one.
Cons: OSU hasn’t really committed to showing him off at one position. Not very explosive or fast, relies more on skill than anything else. Right now he coasts on defense because his length allows him to. Probably needs to bulk up to improve as a finisher due to his relative lack of athleticism.
Final Verdict: While not an elite athlete, Russell dominates in college and has the potential to do so at the next level due to his immense skill. He really can do it all on the hardwood. Russell started the year off strong and kept it going. Has played his way into the top 5.
#3. Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, China (HS in Texas) (19 years old, 6′ 5″, 195)
Stats: 18.0 ppg, 47.8 FG%, 34.2% 3pt, 5.9 apg, 6.3 rpg, 1.6 spg (Chinese league)
Pros: Fits the physical and athletic mold of these explosive, game-changing PG’s we see today. Great handling, blows by defenders with ease. Distributes well and crashes the glass effectively for a guard. Most dynamic open-court guard in the draft since John Wall. Finishes at the rim with force.
Cons: Jumper is still a major issue and he’s relied on sheer athleticism this year in China. Gets lazy on defense because to this point in his career, frankly, he can get away with it.
Final Verdict: Mudiay is an All-Star level talent and you can see that just from his HS footage, but he’s actually done a pretty good job professionally in China this year. He’s a different level of athlete from everyone else in the league, which can make his skills tough to evaluate, but proves how talented he is. Mudiay is an elite talent in this draft and depending on who’s drafting he shouldn’t be completely ruled out as the top overall pick.
#2. Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke (Fr. 6′ 11″, 270)
Stats: 17.4 ppg, 66.7% FG, 9.0 rpg, 1.4 bpg
Pros: Perfect body type for an NBA center with flawless footwork and great hands. An old-school, polished, post-player with an arsenal of moves and an amazing ability to finish with either hand anywhere inside the paint. Strong passer. Great positional player, doesn’t rely solely on his size.
Cons: Not much of a vertical athlete and doesn’t give you anything as rim protector. He’s simply horrible defensively at this point, doesn’t show any effort or awareness with his rotations. Will struggle with the up-n-down game in the NBA if drafted by the wrong team. Might struggle with taller and longer defenders. Has no jump shot and can’t hit FT’s.
Final Verdict: Okafor is a very very good big man. The coordination combined with his body is just unfair at the college level, and should at the very least make him a reliable scorer in the NBA. He’ll need to make strides defensively and get in better shape, but he’s 19. Should be a future All-Star and the general consensus for the #1 spot.
#1. Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky (Fr. 7′ 0″, 250)
Stats: 9.7 ppg, 55.8% FG, 6.6 rpg, 2,4 bpg
Pros: Has impressive length and coordination for a seven-footer. Is already an impact player defensively; rotates well, blocks shots at an elite level, and has the feet to step out or switch if he needs to. Runs the floor like a small forward. Has really great touch and nice form on his jumper, should be able to develop into a great scorer. An OUtSTANDING passer from the high post already. Unlimited potential.
Cons: Not a great vertical athlete. Still learning the game offensively. Right now, he uses his height and length to grab rebounds and doesn’t show much effort or physicality boxing out.
Final Verdict: Man, I probably would’ve taken Towns over anyone in last years draft other than Wiggins. His stated are bogged down by playing for Kentucky. He’s a much better offensive player than he gets credit for and will continue to improve there. Is already an impact player defensively. Even if he doesn’t develop into what I think he will, you’re still getting a dynamic player. I get why someone would prefer Okafor, but to me, it’s not all that close. I think Towns SHOULD go #1 and I see him as the only guaranteed franchise-changing player in this draft.