Though the 2015 NBA Draft is still six months away, who goes number one when projecting today?
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Is there a transcendent, franchise-changing prospect at the top of the 2015 NBA Draft?
Jahlil Okafor has been incredibly impressive to begin his freshman season, showing poise on both ends of the court that many top incoming players lack. In today’s NBA, more than half the teams have a point guard that can be considered a franchise pillar. Not all of those teams can boast a dominant big man.
Barring unforeseen circumstances between now and June, Okafor will don the jersey of the team fortunate enough to win the draft lottery. Forwards dominate the rest of the top-10, as only two guards can be found in that group (Mudiay and LeVert). Once a draft order is established, and team needs can be taken into account, guards sitting just outside the top-30 could find themselves in the first round picture simply due to scarcity.
In mocking the 2015 draft today, how does the full first round look to shake out?
*Stats as of Dec. 4, 2014
1. Jahlil Okafor | C | Duke | Freshman
Stats: 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 blocks
Okafor has been simply dominant to begin his college career, as alluded to in the introduction. In terms of low-post college players, Okafor has the potential to be the top draftee of the last decade. He has been remarkably efficient and lends a hand on both sides of the ball. He has tools to be an elite rebounder and shot blocker at the next level, and will one day be a 20-point scorer in the NBA. He is in a tier of his own at this point.
2. Emmanuel Mudiay | PG | Guangdong Southern Tigers (China) | 1996-born
Stats (Chinese Basketball Association): 18.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.8 steals
Mudiay struggled in his first few games in China, but has found his strike playing for Guangdong. Mudiay has been active on the glass and is fifth in the CBA in assists per game. The biggest question mark to his game is still his 3-point shooting, which he is hitting at a 32 percent clip over nine games. Shooting aside, Mudiay’s 6-5 frame and NBA body will have scouts flocking to China to see him in person. He has potential to be a great two-way point guard in the NBA.
3. Karl Towns | C | Kentucky | Freshman
Stats: 8.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 3.0 blocks
Towns’ raw numbers do not quite compare to many of the others at the top of the mock draft, but that is simply due to Kentucky’s platoon substitution system. In just 18.6 minutes per game, he is averaging 3 blocks per game. Prorating his numbers to Jahlil Okafor’s minutes per game (just over 27), and Towns would be third in the country at 4.4 blocks per game. He is a versatile post that can score from inside and out and should give Calipari plenty of reasons to abandon the platoons to play him more minutes.
4. Myles Turner | PF/C | Texas | Freshman
Stats: 12.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 3.3 blocks
Turner is oozing with potential, and is just starting to scratch the surface of what he is capable at Texas, particularly in terms of scoring. Turner plays in a crowded Longhorns frontcourt, and thus is not seeing the type of minutes expected of a top prospect, but he has not disappointed in his time on the floor. Turner has been an exceptional shot blocker, and has shown the ability to score from both the inside and outside. He is shooting over 36 percent from 3-point range and over 83 percent from the free throw line. Is it too early to start with LaMarcus Aldridge comparisons on the offensive end?
5. Stanley Johnson | SF | Arizona | Freshman
Stats: 14.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.4 steals
Johnson is an elite athlete that does most of his offensive damage as a slasher. He is adept at finishing through contact with a body suited for the NBA, and has a quick first step that allows him to get to the rim. Johnson has been a key part of a near-elite Arizona defense, showing potential to one day become a lockdown wing defender. His 3-point shot is still a work in progress, but should get better as he continues to get better.
6. Justise Winslow | SF | Duke | Freshman
Stats: 12.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals
Winslow has been compared to Grant Hill by Mike Krzyzewski- and it’s not a bad one. Winslow has been the best perimeter defender for the Blue Devils to start the season while also being the team’s most reliable wing scorer. He is not quite the athlete that Johnson is, but is still a good athlete by NBA standards. He needs to be more active in the passing lanes to get out into transition, where he excels, but one cannot ignore the strong start Winslow has had this season.
7. Cliff Alexander | PF | Kansas | Freshman
Stats: 9.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.0 assists, 1.5 blocks
Alexander has been a key reserve for Kansas to start the year, and he probably breaks into the starting lineup before Big-12 play begins. He has been particularly strong on the glass and has shown terrific ability to finish through contact and dunk inside. With greater opportunity, Alexander should have no problem showing why he was the national player of the year as a high school senior. Of some concern- he has not recorded an assist over his first 111 minutes.
8. Montrezl Harrell | PF | Louisville | Junior
Stats: 16.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.8 blocks
Harrell has been a man amongst boys in the paint thus far, dominating the offensive glass and showing an array of powerful dunks inside. He has been showing flashes of an improved perimeter game, though it is still a work in progress. That said, if he can become comfortable from mid-range, and potentially the 3-point line, he will become a more attractive option for teams drafting in the lottery.
9. Kristaps Porzingis | PF | Sevilla (Spain) | 1995-born
Stats: 9.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.4 blocks
The 7-0 power forward from Latvia is a serious threat to rise into the top-five of the mock draft, especially as he gets more minutes playing in the Spanish ACB. As a 19-year old competing against professionals, Porzingis has been able to use his terrific mobility and skill set to score nearly nine points a game. He is already one of the top shot blockers in the Spanish League. If he can improve on the glass and develop more of a back to the basket game he could be an NBA All-Star.
10. Caris LeVert | SG | Michigan | Junior
Stats: 16.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 2.0 steals
LeVert has been one of the most improved players in the country to start the season, and has filled the void left by Nik Stauskas terrifically. LeVert has been dominant as a scorer and also leads the Wolverines in assists and rebounds per game. He is not an elite athlete, but has a high basketball IQ who makes a difference all over the court. He has a great chance to be a lottery pick if he enters the June draft.
11. Mario Hezonja | SG | FC Barcelona (Spain)| 1995-born
Stats: 3.2 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals
Hezonja is struggling to get on the court for Barcelona; he is stuck as a 19-year old prospect on one of the top teams in Europe. When he has been on the court, he has looked good. He is posting good per-minute averages, but is seeing just 10 minutes of floor time per game. He is a terrific athlete and a good shooter with the measurements of an NBA two-guard. He was a scoring machine for Croatia at the FIBA U16 and U17 World Championships in 2011 and 2012 and just needs an opportunity to play. Given that chance he will shine.
12. Kelly Oubre | SG | Kansas | Freshman
Stats: 2.2 points, 1.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.2 steals
Oubre has had a very disappointing start to the 2014-15 season. He is stuck on the bench behind 17-year old Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Wayne Selden largely due to defensive reasons. Oubre is a terrific athlete and a good scorer who can fill it up in bunches, but has struggled in one-on-one defense. Bill Self has a tendency to bring freshmen along slowly, so expect to see Oubre gain more playing time gradually. He is too talented to keep off the court.
13. Willie Cauley-Stein | C | Kentucky | Junior
Stats: 8.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.4 blocks
Willie Cauley-Stein is destined to be a Robin Lopez style center in the NBA, though Cauley-Stein may be a better athlete. He is a tremendous shot blocker and good rebounder who struggles mightily on the offensive end. If he can learn to be an effective roll man in the pick and roll, he could be a double-double player at the next level. Every team can use gifted defensive centers, and Cauley-Stein will go high because of it.
14. Kevon Looney | PF | UCLA | Freshman
Stats: 13.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.8 blocks
Looney has had a terrific start to his freshman campaign under Steve Alford at UCLA. Looney had been an absolute menace on the glass, and is a threat to lead all freshmen in rebounding this year. He is capable of scoring in the post and with a midrange jump shot, though he needs to eventually shoot a higher percentage from outside the paint. He is a competent shot blocker, though it will never be his calling card. If he can keep up his hot play he could go in the top half of the lottery.
15. RJ Hunter | SG | Georgia State | Junior
Stats: 22.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.6 steals
Hunter might be the most polished wing scorer in the 2015 draft class. He currently ranks fifth in the country in scoring, and scored 21 points against Iowa State earlier this year. He is able to create for others as well, as evidenced by his good assist rate for an off-guard. At 6-6 he has good size for an NBA shooting guard, and needs to eventually test well athletically to prove he belongs in the group with the top prospects. He could end up being a top-10 pick.
16. Tyus Jones | PG | Duke | Freshman
Stats: 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.5 steals
Jones has the best court vision and pure point guard skills in the 2015 class. He is a capable outside shooter who will thrive as a pick and roll ball handler at the next level. The biggest concern about the Dukies’ point guard is his defense. Not an elite athlete, he struggles against more athletic opponents when matched up one on one. As he continues to learn Duke’s defensive schemes he will likely adapt and improve, but given the high number of uber-athletic point guards in the NBA right now it is a concern that needs to be tracked.
17. Trey Lyles | PF | Kentucky | Freshman
Stats: 8.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals
Lyles is a four-man stuck playing the three in Kentucky’s platoon system. He is a tweener at the next level, though is very capable of exploiting mismatches offensively. He is a good ball handler for his size and position, and finishes well around the rim. Negatively, his steal and block rates are somewhat concerning and he needs to work on his outside shooting. He is, however, dripping with potential and could be a terrific find in the middle of the first round.
18. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson | SF | Arizona | Sophomore
Stats: 13.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 blocks
Hollis-Jefferson is an elite athlete who has the potential to be a lockdown defender at the NBA level. He is a good rebounder from the wing, and a good shot blocker too. He is not a good outside shooter, but hits a decent number of set outside shots. If he can become a better ball handler he could be a good slashing option as a pro. With lots of potential, Hollis-Jefferson is a highflyer who will definitely be a first rounder if he declares. Mamadou N’Diaye agrees.
19. Sam Dekker | SF | Wisconsin | Junior
Stats: 11.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.3 steals
Dekker is a complimentary player who does a little of everything very well. He drew high praise at the Lebron James camp this past summer, for his ablility to finish inside and outside alike. He is a good rebounder from the wing, and has the size that scouts look for in a small forward at 6-9. He needs to improve his outside shooting, and plays maddeningly passive at times, but he has all of the tools that fit the NBA game. He could be Chandler Parsons 2.0.
20. Chris McCullough | PF | Syracuse | Freshman
Stats: 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.3 blocks
McCullough has been very impressive for Syracuse to start the season, using his elite athleticism and length to dominate the glass and score inside. At 6-10, he has terrific steal and block rates and is quickly becoming more of an offensive threat for Jim Boeheim. He is still raw offensively, and does not have much of a jump shot yet, but his raw tools have him shooting up draft boards. By the next update he could be in the lottery.
21. Frank Kaminsky | C | Wisconsin | Senior
Stats: 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 blocks
Given the way NBA teams currently play, Kaminsky seems like a no-brainer to be drafted in the first round, and potentially the lottery. While his status as a senior will hurt his stock some, he is a true seven-footer who can stretch the floor with range on his jump shot out to the NBA 3-point line. He is a terrific offensive rebounder, and shows good instincts as a shot blocker. He is not an elite athlete, but not many centers in the NBA are. He has shown through the first month of games that last year’s NCAA Tournament was not a fluke.
22. D’Angelo Russell | SG | Ohio State | Freshman
Stats: 17.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.8 steals
Russell has dominated the competition to start the season, albeit against mostly inferior competition. He has NBA size at 6-5, and an assist rate that not many other two-guards can boast. Left handed, Russell is a volume shooter who will lead Ohio State in scoring all season. He has no problem creating his own shot, though his shot selection is sometimes not as selective as analysts would like. He is a good, but not great athlete who will rise up the boards if he can continue to post similar numbers during Big Ten play.
23. Jabari Bird | SG | California | Sophomore
Stats: 11.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.2 steals
Bird has not progressed the way I imagined he would before the season. While he has been good, and is shooting terrific percentages (47 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3-point range), he looked prime to lead Cal in scoring and take the next step as a prospect. At 6-6 and very athletic, Bird still has the tools to be a terrific two-way NBA off-guard. If he can begin to score more off the dribble it will help his stock a lot. Recovering from his foot injury should help greatly.
24. Bobby Portis | PF | Arkansas | Sophomore
Stats: 14.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.5 blocks
Portis, like Bird, seemed ready to breakout as the top-returning prospect for an improving team. Portis leads the Razorbacks in rebounds and blocks, and is second in scoring, but has not elevated his game much from last season. He shows potential in both the pick and roll and pick and pop (5/6 3’s to start the season), and is a near-elite rebounder, but needs to control the paint to a greater extent to move up in the mock draft.
25. Andrew Harrison | PG/SG | Kentucky | Sophomore
Stats: 8.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.4 steals
The Harrison twins are still enigmas in projecting them to the next level. Andrew has been Kentucky’s starting point guard over the past two seasons, though questions remain over his true position at the next level. He is not a great defender yet, but is a competent shooter and good ball handler with terrific size and athleticism when projecting to the NBA. There is a lot to like, but he is in danger of being jumped by many of the rising prospects below him.
26. Aaron Harrison | SG | Kentucky | Sophomore
Stats: 10.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals
Aaron is not as skilled as his brother, but is a better scorer. A natural off-guard, Harrison gained some fame for his clutch shooting in last season’s NCAA Tournament. He has struggled with his efficiency to begin 2014-15, and is shooting just 25 percent from downtown- his supposed best attribute. Like his brother, he is 6-6 and built like a pro. He will have suitors towards the end of the first round, but needs to elevate his play soon to avoid dropping out of the first round of the mock.
27. Nigel Williams-Goss | PG | Washington | Sophomore
Stats: 14.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.3 steals
Williams-Goss is an exciting point guard who has had a terrific start to the season. Williams-Goss is one of the country’s best passers, and a terrific rebounder from the point guard position. At 6-3, he has good size to project to the next level, but needs to be more efficient with his scoring and outside shooting. After hitting on 35.6 percent of his 3-point attempts last year, the Huskies’ PG is hitting just 20 percent to begin 2014-15. A lack of a consistent jump shot will prevent him from climbing up the draft board.
28. Terry Rozier | PG | Louisville | Sophomore
Stats: 13.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.2 steals
Rozier has slid into the vacancy left by Russ Smith in an offense led by two point guards. He is a terrific one-on-one defender who can create havoc in the backcourt, and reads passing lanes well. He is a good passer, and has potential to play the point full time in the NBA. He is still improving as a shooter and scorer, but finds opportunities to make his mark in transition. Like the point guards above him, he needs to shoot the ball better to rise above the rest.
29. James Blackmon, Jr. | SG | Indiana | Freshman
Stats: 19.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Blackmon has adjusted well to the pace and physicality of the college game, scoring nearly 20 points per game over his first seven games. He takes roughly half his shots from 3-point land, and is making a tremendous 53.7 percent of his attempts. One would think that number would come back down to earth some, but if he can keep it up he will have many teams pushing hard to draft him. He is as good of a scorer as Russell (ranked 22 on this list), but not quite the playmaker of his rival.
30. Delon Wright | PG | Utah | Senior
Stats: 15.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.7 steals
Wright is a do-it-all senior leader for a Utah team primed to reappear in the NCAA Tournament this year. A combo-guard, Wright is the younger brother of Blazers’ forward Dorell Wright. The Utes’ guard is a crafty and efficient scorer who has began the season shooting over 60 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. At 6-5 he has potential to be a terrific guard defender at the next level, using his good length to pick up steals and get out in transition. His draft stock is unlikely to fluctuate much, and he will benefit from underclassmen above him who withdraw.
Next five in: Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga) | Jerian Grant (Notre Dame) | Amida Brimah (UConn) | Trevon Bluiett (Xavier) | Jakob Poeltl (Utah)
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