Is the 2015 NBA Draft class better than that of last year? I don’t know. Dumb question, or at least a dumb question until 2018 or so. But there certainly is a lot of potential franchise-changing talent at the top of this draft as well as some sleepers who figure to outperform their slots.
Here’s what I think is going to happen on Thursday. My mock is very different from most on the internet as I think there have been a lot of bullshit narratives surrounding many of these players throughout the season (example; that Jahlil Okafor was considered the #1 prospect for most of the year). I’m no expert. There are no degrees or press credentials here. Just a dude who watches way too much basketball at both the college and professional level.
I’m not mocking trades. Obviously, trades will happen. In a couple of places I slotted a guy with consideration of a trade, but it’s simply foolish to try and predict exact trades.
Let’s start in Minny.
#1) Minnesotta Timberwolves
The Pick: Karl-Anthony Towns (PF/C, Kentucky)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 11″, 250 lbs
It’s been well-known that Flip Saunders is smitten with Jahlil Okafor, but as the process has gone on, we’ve come to the consensus that Towns is the best player in the draft. He’s not the defensive liability Okafor is, and Towns’ offensive game is still underrated because people are going off college stats (ugh). Towns played just 21 minutes a game at Kentucky due to Calipari’s experimentation with the rotation. Throw any numbers out the window.
Towns is a player with great feet who can run the floor as well as shoot jumpers, but it’s his ability on the block that should allow him to find success as a scorer. He moves fluidly and can finish with either hand in a variety of ways (remember him DOMINATING Notre Dame in the Elite 8?). He’s also a tremendous passer from the high post. At times, Kentucky’s best offense was to feed Towns and then send cutters at the hoop.
Okafor and D’Angelo Russell are probably still in play, but Towns is the best player in the draft. A starting lineup of Ricky Rubio-Kevin Martin-Andrew Wiggins-Towns-Nikola Pekovic would be as good as a team coming off an ugly season can hope for.
#2) Los Angeles Lakers
The Pick: D’Angelo Russell (PG/SG, Ohio State)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 5″, 195 lbs
Here’s where my mock begins to differ from most. The general consensus is that the Lakers will go with whoever the T’Wolves don’t take out of the Towns-Okafor duo. I’m not so sure.
Unless last years first round pick Julius Randle has all-of-a-sudden become a legit jump-shooter who can step out and switch, doesn’t putting Okafor next to him become a bit repetitive and problematic defensively? While Jordan Clarkson had a nice rookie year for LA at the point and Kobe Bryant is still in town, Russell is both the better fit and better prospect.
Russell can play either guard spot. While he lacks explosiveness, he shows a nice understanding of angles and lanes when attacking the hoop, getting the most out of his athleticism like a Paul Pierce or James Harden. He has a smooth shooting stroke, knows how to move without the ball, and is the best passer in the draft. He’s simply a home-run combo guard prospect who can fit whatever role the Lakers ask him to play.
Of course, the Lakers could just take Okafor.
#3) Philadelphia 76ers
The Pick: Jahlil Okafor (C, Duke)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 11″, 270 lbs
The Sixers are always the most unpredictable team. It’s as if Sam Hinkie makes picks just to confuse us. But everyone seem to agree that if Russell is on the board here, he’s the pick. In this case, he’s not. There’s a good chance that Hinkie would try to move this pick to a different GM salivating over Okafor or Kristaps Porzingis, but even if they hold it, Okafor makes sense to me.
You simply cannot operate under the assumption that Joel Embiid, who may miss all of next year, is your franchise center. The Sixers mindset throughout this rebuild has been to stockpile assets and worry about sorting them out later. Okafor would be considered the best player in at this point (though again, I’m not so sure).
I think putting Okafor next to Nerlens Noel, a big who can move and protect the rim, would help hide his defensive problems. Okafor could just do what he does best; get the ball on the block and put it in the hoop. They’d be far from a contender, but with Noel-Okafor and possibly Embiid, the 76ers would have perhaps the most intriguing young frontcourt in the NBA.
#4) New York Knicks
The Pick: Kristaps Porzingis (PF, Latvia)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 7′ 0″, 225 lbs
It’s long been assumed that if the first three picks are Towns, Okafor and Russell in any order that the Knicks will look to move down from #4. Personally, I would go with Emmanuel Mudiay here, but Phil Jackson seems committed to acquiring players who fit his triangle offense.
There’s so much buzz surrounding the smooth-shooting Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis, like, top 5 buzz. The Magic (who pick 5th) are reportedly looking at him, and Phil Jackson would have no problem dangling this pick to a team looking to move ahead of Orlando. Even if the Knicks hold the pick, Porzingis is probably in play despite the fact that he becomes repetitive on a team already paying Andrea Bargnani and Jason Smith.
I’m not as excited about Porzingis as most. From the videos I’ve seen, he doesn’t have good feet. This hurts him on both ends and is why I feel the Dirk Nowitzki comparisons are outrageous. I really thought we were done comparing every European seven-footer who can shoot to Dirk, but I guess not. Regardless, Porzingis figures to go somewhere in the top 5. I’ll slot him here.
#5) Orlando Magic
The Pick: Willie Cauley-Stein (C, Kentucky)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 7′ 0″, 240 lbs
If Porzingis is gone, the Magic will have an interesting and fairly unpredictable decision to make. While Nikola Vucevic is a very good offensive player, I’m not sure he’s good enough to alter a teams draft plans. Besides, given WCS’s ability to step out and switch defensively, wouldn’t he be a good compliment to the flat-footed Vucevic?
In an NBA that wants its big men to be able to protect the rim and switch on PnR’s, WCS is a near-perfect defensive prospect. Offensively, he’s currently limited to putbacks and alley-oops, but I believe his hands and feet are good enough for him to develop some sort of a post game.
Duke standout Justise Winslow and Croatian wing Mario Hezonja figure to be in play as well.
#6) Sacramento Kings
The Pick: Emmanuel Mudiay (PG, “China”)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 5″, 200 lbs
Both WCS and Mudiay project as great fits for the Kings and immediate impact-defenders. Here, Mudiay falls to 6, and it should be an easy choice for Sacramento if that’s the case.
Mudiay, who’s 6′ 5″, will ideally play at around 210-215 lbs. That makes him a gigantic point guard. Add that to his superb athleticism and great court vision, and you’re looking at someone who could develop into an elite point guard even though he can’t shoot worth a lick at this point in time.
I personally believe Mudiay would be a steal at #6.
#7) Denver Nuggets
The Pick: Justise Winslow (SF, Duke)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 7″, 220
New head coach Mike Malone has made it clear that the Nuggets want to play fast like they used to. One problem, Ty Lawson is really their only player who thrives in a transition game. Winslow is an exceptional athlete who prefers to play an up-and-down game. Given his NBA-ready defensive ability, that makes him a great fit, right?
Winslow has a long way to go in terms of finding his own shot and functioning in a halfcourt game, but his defensive ability raises his floor a bit. He has a decent jumper; he just needs the other skills to compliment it.
#8) Detroit Pistons
The Pick: Mario Hezonja (SG/SF, Croatia)
The Details: 20 yrs old, 6′ 8″, 200 lbs
Hezonja’s blend of athleticism and unlimited shooting range on his 6′ 8″ frame make him a very interesting offensive prospect. He’s not gun shy, and while he plays zero defense at the moment, you figure Stan Van Gundy will coach that out of him real quick if the Pistons go this way.
The Pistons desperately need some scoring punch from the wing and Hezonja is being compared to J.R. Smith.
#9) Charlotte Hornets
The Pick: Myles Turner (PF/C, Texas)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 11″, 240 lbs
Stanley Johnson’s reported refusal to work out for Charlotte clears this up a little bit. I love Turner as a prospect. He has good hands, can shoot, and is already a dominant rim protector. He has a long way to go in terms of developing a post game and rotating defensively, but out of all the big men in this draft, only Towns has higher upside.
Turner would give Charlotte insurance in case Al Jefferson walks next year and they need some big men anyways since Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh have been underwhelming thus far in their respective careers.
#10) Miami Heat
The Pick: Stanley Johnson (SF, Arizona)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 7″, 245
The Heat are in an interesting position as they’re picking in the lottery yet probably feel like they contend in the East next year if they bring back Goran Dragic. Ideally, they’d draft a player who would play right away for them and has a relatively small learning curve ahead of him.
Stanley Johnson is exactly that. He’s a difficult player to slot; he could go as high as 7 or 8, but could fall out of the lottery entirely if Miami passes on him at 10. At 6′ 7″, 245 Johnson has an NBA body at the age of 19 and is a very good defender. Still developing on the other end, Johnson is at his best in transition. He should be able to get away with guarding three positions and that’ll get him minutes somewhere right away.
The Pick: Trey Lyles (PF, Kentucky)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 10″, 240 lbs
Here, the Pacers bring back the hometown kid Trey Lyles. While names like Cameron Payne and Devin Booker have been tossed around here, and it would appear the Pacers are more needy on the perimeter, Lyles would give their frontcourt a much-need infusion of athleticism and depth.
Lyles didn’t get a ton of post-ups at Kentucky playing as a combo forward, but he was effective when the ball was in his hands, showing decent mid-range touch as well. He projects as an effective bench player out the gate with the potential to become a very good starting PF if he can fix some defensive issues.
#12) Utah Jazz
The Pick: Kelly Oubre Jr. (SG/SF, Kansas)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 7″, 205 lbs
Oubre didn’t take over games at Kansas the way many thought he would but he stilled showed himself off as a solid all-around player with serious upside due to his shooting touch and impressive vertical athleticism. Oubre is a good defender as well. What’s holding him back right now is a sloppy handle that makes it difficult to create his own shot consistently.
Utah was a nice surprise after the All-Star break thanks to the emergence of Rudy Gobert as the NBA’s best rim protector. They’re probably only a decent rotation player or two away from being a playoff team in the brutal West. Despite drafting both Dante Exum and Rodney Hood last year, the Jazz could still use help on the perimeter.
#13) Phoenix Suns
The Pick: Cameron Payne (PG/SG, Murray State)
The Details: 20 yrs old, 6′ 2″, 185 lbs
Payne’s stock has risen throughout the process and he’s now being talked about a a top-10 talent. If he doesn’t go to Indiana at 11, I can’t see Phoenix passing on him here. While Phoenix’s initial “Three PG system” with Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas failed, it was still a good concept for a team that wants to play fast. They just didn’t have the right players. Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and theoretically Cameron Payne would be an interesting trio.
Payne is lightning quick with the ball in his hands and can get hot in a hurry. Despite that, he’s also a good distributor who figures to play most of his NBA minutes at the point. Payne does have a ways to go defensively, however.
#14) Oklahoma City Thunder
The Pick: Kevon Looney (PF, UCLA)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 9″, 220 lbs
The Thunder don’t have a ton of real needs for a team picking at the end of the lottery. A guard who can score would be nice, but if Cameron Payne is gone, would the Thunder really want a player like Devin Booker or would they want someone who can backup multiple positions?
Kevon Looney, while truly a PF, has legitimate perimeter skills. He has a killer faceup game. But he’s at his best down low where he’s a relentless rebounder and a surprisingly effective rim protector for a 6′ 9″ guy. Oklahoma City has plenty of big bodies when healthy but Looney posses a skill set that the others lack.
#15) Atlanta Hawks
The Pick: Bobby Portis (PF, Arkansas)
The Details: 20 yrs old, 6′ 10″, 245
With the uncertainty surrounding Paul Millsap’s long-term future in Atlanta and the plethora of lottery-caliber PF’s in this draft, the Hawks feel destined to go that way with this pick.
Portis makes a lot of sense because he has the feet and athleticism to become a solid defender, though he never seemed concerned with improving defensively at Arkansas. Offensively, his athleticism and nice jumper give him a ton of PnR/Pick-n-Pop potential. You’d like to see him try and work the block more but he still finds ways to score.
#16) Boston Celtics
The Pick: Christian Wood (PF, UNLV)
The Details: 19 yrs old, 6′ 11″, 215 lbs
The Celtics have reportedly been trying to move up from this slot for weeks, perhaps in an attempt to land Willie Cauley-Stein. They have so many future picks that moving up wouldn’t be too difficult. Still, let’s assume they keep the pick.
Some would consider this a reach given that Wood is going at the end of the first in most mocks, but I don’t think people are seeing his upside. As a guy with a 7′ 4″ wingspan who has high-level perimeter skills (a nice J and he actually burns guys off the bounce) Wood’s offensive upside is tantalizing. He’s a decent athlete which makes him an effective rim protector. He needs to get a lot stronger physically and learn to stay in position defensively, and ill probably never be a true post-up big man, but there’s too much intrigue offensively for him to fall far.
#17) Milwaukee Bucks
The Pick: Devin Booker (SG, Kentucky)
The Details: 18 yrs old, 6′ 6″, 205 lbs
As the best shooter in the draft and a guy people think could creep into the top 10, Devin Booker would present great value here for Milwaukee, a team that could use a knockdown outside threat. The Bucks have built their roster with a bunch of guys who can defend multiple positions, giving them endless options here.
He obviously has a pretty shot, but what’s most impressive about Booker is the way he moves through lanes and off screens to get good looks. His release is quick as well. He’s a better athlete than he gets credit for and should be able to develop into an average defender.
#18) Houston Rockets
The Pick: Delon Wright (PG, Utah)
The Details: 23 yrs old, 6′ 5″, 180 lbs
Despite him being 23 and not having shown a ton of shooting range, I’m really high on Delon Wright. I love his combination of playmaking, tenacious defense, and athleticism as a 6′ 5″ PG.
When Patrick Beverley went down, Houston got exposed. Not only did they not have another guard on their roster who could play even respectable defense, but they also lacked any playmaking ability which forced even more of a load onto James Harden’s shoulders. Houston is, of course, trying to win right now. Delon Wright may lack the long-term upside of other prospects but he immediately makes Houston a better and deeper team.
#19 Washington Wizards
The Pick: Sam Dekker (SF, Wisconsin)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 6′ 9″, 220 lbs
Now that people have looked at Sam Dekker closer and realized that he was really a 30% 3pt shooter last year who happened to get hot in a few big tourney games, his stock has taken a slight hit. I think it’d be a reach to take him in the lottery. But at 19, a team like the Wizards could use his ability to play multiple positions.
What’s intriguing about Dekker is that he’s a true 6′ 9″ with great athleticism and a high skill level, though he’ll need to show he can find his own jumper. Until he tightens his handle Dekker will be mostly a cutter offensively, but he should be able to guard both forward spots, which is valuable.
#20) Toronto Raptors
The Pick: Frank Kaminsky (C, Wisconsin)
The Details: 22 yrs old, 7′ 0″, 230 lbs
It’s just a coincidence that I have the Wisconsin guys going back-to-back. Kaminsky makes a lot of sense to Toronto, a team that could use some more scoring at all levels from their frontcourt.
Kaminsky has slow feet and you’re always going to have to hide him defensively. But if your expectations are reasonable, he could provide nice scoring punch for a player taken outside of the lottery. Kaminsky is an efficient player who plays within the flow of the offense, something that’ll be very important for him because he’s not much of a one-on-one threat.
#21) Dallas Mavericks
The Pick: Jerian Grant (PG, Notre Dame)
The Details: 22 yrs old, 6′ 5″, 200 lbs
It’s probably safe to assume that Rajon Rondo will not be back in Dallas. So they need a PG, and preferably, one big enough to guard the 2-spot at times next to Monta Ellis.
Jerian Grant didn’t play much defense in college, but his size and athleticism suggest he has the ability to develop into a decent player on that end. Offensively, his shot is streaky but he’s a bulldozer when attacking the rim and has become a true floor general in his time at ND. Dallas could get a guy who would start for them right away at 21. That’s great value.
#22) Chicago Bulls
The Pick: Rashad Vaughn (SG, UNLV)
The Details: 18 yrs old, 6′ 5″, 200 lbs
The Bulls could go a variety of ways here. I like Rashad Vaughn because of his offensive upside if he can work on his handling.
Vaughn is great athlete who can get hot from deep. It’s hard to hold defensive and ball-handling issues against a player so young with so much potential. Right now, he’s not much of a one-on-one player, but I’m not sure he’d need to be in Chicago given the playmaking abilities of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Jimmy Butler (assuming he’s still there). Three years from now, there’s a decent chance we’re talking about Vaughn as one of the 10 best players from this class.
#23) Portland Trail Blazers
The Pick: Montrezl Harrell (PF, Louisville)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 6′ 8″, 250 lbs
Whether or not LeMarcus Aldridge is back in Portland (I’d guess “no”), the Blazers could use a guy who can eat minutes at the 4. If Harrell was two inches taller, we’re probably talking about him as a top 10 pick.
He’s both a bruiser and a great leaper. The problem is that he’s never developed any perimeter skills, something that would help him given his less than ideal height. Kenneth Fareid is the easy comparison but I think Harrell is a more physical player whereas Fareid is quicker.
#24) Cleveland Cavaliers
The Pick: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (SF, Arizona)
The Details: 20 yrs old, 6′ 7″, 210
Assuming Cleveland brings everybody back and they stay healthy, the only thing they really need is another athletic wing who can run with LeBron & Kyrie in transition as well as possibly guarding the other teams best guy to give Bron a breather. While a bit limited from a skill perspective, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is exactly that.
RHJ moves well laterally and can leap out of the building, which makes his defensive potential limitless. The key for him will be tightening up his handle so he can function as a slasher in the halfcourt game.
#25) Memphis Grizzlies
The Pick: Justin Anderson (SG, Virginia)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 6′ 6″, 230 lbs
Justin Anderson developed a nice 3pt shot during his time at Virginia to go along with his elite perimeter defense. There’s not a team in the NBA that couldn’t use a good 3-n-D guy, and Anderson might be the best one from this draft.
Memphis needs to lock Marc Gasol up and try to win now. Anderson can help them do that more so than most prospects you find in the 20’s.
#26) San Antonio Spurs
The Pick: Richaun Holmes (PF, Bowling Green)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 6′ 9″, 240 lbs
Holmes is generally considered a 2nd-round prospect, but I think he’s being slept on by the folks who cover the draft and has a chance to creep into the first. He’s a great pick-n-pop guy whose quick feet also help him defensively. Holmes just feels like one of those guys who will go 10 picks later than he should and then end up carving out a 10-year NBA career.
The Spurs could use another big both right now and moving forward.
#27) Los Angeles Lakers
The Pick: Jordan Mickey (PF/C, LSU)
The Details: 20 yrs old, 6′ 8″, 235 lbs
While undersized, Jordan Mickey helps hide it with his 7′ 2″ wingspan and explosive leaping ability. He was one of the best rim protectors in college hoops this year. Mickey has improved his post game but on an NBA-level he’s mostly just a finisher right now.
Given that I have the Lakers taking Russell at #2 and they declined to pick up Jordan Hill’s option, Mickey makes sense and also happens to be one of the best players on the board here.
#28) Boston Celtics
The Pick: R.J. Hunter (SG, Georgia State)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 6′ 5″, 185 lbs
The Celtics desperately need some outside shooting and they’d have to be ecstatic if R.J. Hunter falls to 28, given that many are mocking him to Boston at 16 and he’s being talked about as a possible lottery pick.
Hunter is a shooter, plain and simple. He compliments his range with a quick release and a great understanding of spacing on the floor. He lacks the frame and athletic upside of Devin Booker, but Hunter may very well be the best pure shooter in the draft.
#29) Brooklyn Nets
The Pick: J.P. Tokoto (SG/SF, North Carolina)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 6′ 6″, 195 lbs
While not generally considered a first round talent, I believe the fact that Tokoto is relatively safe bet to be a good defender will put him in the conversation at the end of the first. He’s both a great lateral and vertical athlete. Nothing more than a transition finisher offensively at this point, but he actually has decent form on his shot. There’s reason to think he can become a passable outside shooter.
#30) Golden State Warriors
The Pick: Terry Rozier (PG/SG, Louisville)
The Details: 21 yrs old, 6′ 2″, 190 lbs
Rozier’s lack of a true position wouldn’t be a problem on a team that moves the ball as well as Golden State. He has a tendency to force things, but that can be fixed. Rozier’s quickness and ability to find his own shot could add another threat off the Warriors bench. His length allows him to get away with more miscues defensively than he should.
Welp. That’s it. In case you’re wondering, here are my 10 favorite players in the draft that I couldn’t fit into the 1st:
- Tyus Jones (PG, Duke)
- Robert Upshaw (C, Washington)
- Chris McCullough (PF, Syracuse)
- Jarell Martin (PF, LSU)
- Andrew Harrison (PG, Kentucky)
- Norman Powell (SG, UCLA)
- Cliff Alexander (PF/C, Kansas)
- Terran Petteway (SG, Nebraska)
- Charles Jackson (PF, Tennessee Tech)
- Josh Richardson (SG, Tennessee)