Though the 2015 NBA Draft is still six months away, who goes number one when projecting today?
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May 19th may as well have been Christmas for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After months of losing and franchise insecurity, the number one pick is staring them straight in the face.
Landing the top selection is not a guaranteed home run — Greg Oden and Anthony Bennett have proven that in recent years — but it marks a tremendous opportunity to add one of the best young talents in the world while also helping the team’s marketing and ticketing departments.
This monumental bounce of the ping-pong balls has changed the fate of the Timberwolves, potentially pushing the team back towards playoff contention. In June, we find out exactly what direction they take.
- Minnesota- Karl-Anthony Towns | PF/C | Kentucky | Freshman
While Okafor is my top ranked player in the draft, the Timberwolves will opt for Towns due to his versatility inside. With Rookie of the Year and potential All-NBA wing Andrew Wiggins leading the way, Towns will travel to Minnesota as a rim protector and secondary scorer inside. He has the ability to score out to 17 feet, and will be an improvement in the pick and roll game with Ricky Rubio. Things are finally looking up in Minneapolis — just keep David Kahn away.
- LA Lakers- Jahlil Okafor | C | Duke | Freshman
The Lakers were the big movers of the 2015 Draft Lottery, moving into the top three past the New York Knicks for the chance to take whichever center Flip Saunders leaves on the board. Okafor completes a rebuilt frontcourt with Julius Randle, and should be an instant favorite to win rookie of the year. Okafor is a marketable player, and should have no issues playing alongside Kobe Bryant in LA. As I have written all year, Okafor is the best prospect in the 2015 Draft.
- Philadelphia- D’Angelo Russell | PG/SG | Ohio State | Freshman
The 76ers were essentially saved from picking in the top two, where they would have pondered adding a center at the top of the draft for a third-straight year. Russell is the top guard prospect in the draft, and has a James Harden/Manu Ginobili-type ceiling. Michael Carter-Williams was traded due to his inability to shoot the ball and play efficiently, and Sam Hinkie finds a definite upgrade in the long-term in Russell. He will be the top contender for ROY honors with Okafor.
- New York- Emmanuel Mudiay | PG | Guangdong Tigers | 1996-born
Phil Jackson finds his point guard of the future with Mudiay. In the mold of John Wall, Mudiay is an athletic, slashing point guard who can fill all areas of the stat sheet. He is a good fit for the triangle offense, and should be a good compliment to Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks have already been rumored to be active in the trade market, but the chance to draft a future All-Star in Mudiay might be too much to pass up.
- Orlando- Justise Winslow | SF | Duke | Freshman
Adding an athletic wing is not the biggest need for the Magic, but Tobias Harris’ impending free agency and the lack of outside shooting in the backcourt may prompt Rob Hennigan to opt for the Duke swingman. Winslow played his best basketball in the NCAA Tournament, helping lead Duke to the NCAA Championship as a freshman. With the ability to score, shoot and pass from the wing, Winslow is well deserving of a top-five selection.
- Sacramento- Kristaps Porzingis | PF | Sevilla | 1995-born
The Kings fell off after firing Mike Malone early in the year, but pick at six with the chance to add another very good prospect. Deciding on Porzingis, the Kings will have an athletic stretch-four who is also capable of protecting the rim to an above-average degree. He needs to get stronger, and play with better intelligence at times, but he pairs well with DeMarcus Cousins (who the team should keep) and adds outside shooting from the post that can continue to spread the floor.
- Denver- Mario Hezonja | SG | FC Barcelona | 1995-born
Denver has to be ecstatic to land Hezonja at 7, who they likely would have taken inside the top five. Hezonja is an athletic shooter in Spain who plays like a young Klay Thompson. He has a higher ceiling than last year’s first round pick, Gary Harris, and could be the team’s top scorer in a few years. He has been buried behind veterans at Barcelona, but Denver could be the team to give him his best chance to shine.
- Detroit- Stanley Johnson | SF | Arizona | Freshman
There is a major void on the wing in Detroit, as the team does not have a starting caliber player at the three. Johnson is an immediate upgrade, and competes hard on both ends of the court. He is a better shooter than he gets credit for, and could wind up being the top wing defender in the draft. Stan Van Gundy would be licking his lips at the chance to draft Johnson, who could go as high as five to Orlando.
- Charlotte- Willie Cauley-Stein | C | Kentucky | Junior
While center is far from the Hornets’ biggest need at this point, there is not a shooting guard prospect left on the board that should be taken this high. Cauley-Stein is the next in the line of athletic, shot-blocking big men who do a great job of changing the game. Potentially the next Tyson Chandler, ‘Trill’ can be groomed for when Al Jefferson departs, and can play alongside him during stretches as well. This is a classic ‘best player available’ selection.
- Miami- Myles Turner | PF/C | Texas | Freshman
Turner, like Towns, is a versatile big man that excels as a rim protector, though Turner is not an elite athlete. He has legitimate 3-point range, and would be a terrific third post option behind Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside. Given the addition of Goran Dragic in the backcourt, shoring up the frontcourt depth has to be a priority, and adding a player with a similar skill set as Chris Bosh cannot hurt.
- Indiana- Jerian Grant | PG | Notre Dame | Senior
The first senior comes of the board. Grant is a two-way player that has shown the ability to score effectively from multiple areas of the floor. His form on his jump shot can be inconsistent at times, though he shot a good percentage at Note Dame (34.5% career). His ability to take care of the ball, score at the rim, and defend opposing ball handlers is similar to Jrue Holiday, and he represents an upgrade over George Hill within two years.
- Utah- Kevon Looney | SF/PF | UCLA | Freshman
Utah might be the team with the best chance to make the leap into the Western Conference playoff race outside of Oklahoma City, and can afford to take a chance on a player with big potential. Looney is an elite rebounder who shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range as a freshman. Long and athletic, Looney should become a very good two-way player, and can back-up both forward spots in the short-term.
- Phoenix- Frank Kaminsky | PF/C | Wisconsin | Senior
The Suns have to view themselves as ready to make the jump out of the 9/10 spots in the West, and take an NBA-ready player in Kaminsky to fill out the frontcourt. Alex Len and Markieff Morris are locked in as starters for 2015-16, though Kaminsky’s crafty ability to create his own shot inside should find him early minutes. He has NBA 3-point range and should be an above-average rebounder and shot blocker in time.
- Oklahoma City- Sam Dekker | SF | Wisconsin | Junior
Back-to-back Badgers come off the board with Oklahoma City’s selection. The Thunder offense struggled mightily (understandably) with Kevin Durant’s absence, but Andre Roberson should have never been the next man up to start in his place. Dekker is a talented, jack-of-all-trades small forward with terrific size and skill for the small forward position. With an improvement in his shooting, this pick could be a steal.
- Atlanta- RJ Hunter | SG | Georgia State | Junior
The Hawks have excelled playing team basketball, with each of its players adept at making the extra pass. The team’s biggest struggles, however, have come when the team has been unable to connect from the outside. A coach’s son, Hunter was option-A at Georgia State, and is a very good outside shooter and scorer. He fits into Budenholzer’s philosophy but can also find his own shots on nights when the open looks will not go down.
- Boston- Robert Upshaw | C | Washington | Sophomore
Boston has to get better defensively at the rim, and there may not be a better rim protector in this draft than Upshaw. He measured a Gobert-esque 7-7.75 wingspan with massive hands. It is not a reach to say he could be the best defensive center in the class, outside of Karl Towns. And yet drafting him at 16 could be a reach- as he has a long list of off-court concerns. Upshaw was kicked off of the teams at both Fresno State and Washington, giving him the dubious honor of having the most red flags in the draft. With two first rounders in 2015, Boston can afford to take the gamble.
- Milwaukee- Kelly Oubre | SG | Kansas | Freshman
Oubre consistently improved at Kansas, and developed into the team’s best scorer towards the end of the season. This likely represents the floor for Oubre, who could conceivably go as high as No. 9 to Charlotte. The lefty is a very good 3-point shooter who can finish above the rim, but has shown a tendency for defensive lapses in awareness. Assuming the team finds a way to keep Khris Middleton, Oubre would compete with OJ Mayo for the backup job.
- Houston- Tyus Jones | PG | Duke | Freshman
Houston has to add a point guard with this pick, as Jason Terry cannot be relied upon for much longer and Patrick Beverley has been unable to stay healthy. Jones is a pass-first guard who can also function as a scorer, and helped lead Duke to an NCAA Championship. He shows the natural ability to run a team, and could pair with James Harden in the Rockets’ backcourt. This pick seems like a no-brainer.
- Washington- Devin Booker | SG | Kentucky | Freshman
Like Oubre above him, this could represent Booker’s floor. Potentially the best outside shooter in the draft, Booker was Kentucky’s most consistent perimeter scorer and shooter who played a major role in helping Kentucky to an undefeated regular season. The backcourt depth in underwhelming in Washington, and Booker should develop into a starter-caliber player in time.
- Toronto- Bobby Portis | PF | Arkansas | Sophomore
The Raptors have a team full of league-average power forwards, and should look to improve it with the selection of Portis here. Portis is not a flashy player, be he is a power forward that can connect on a mid-range jump shot and secure rebounds on both ends of the floor. With legitimate NBA size, he would likely step into a starting role in year two at the latest, especially if Amir Johnson struggles on the defensive end.
- Dallas- Cameron Payne | PG | Murray State | Sophomore
It is safe to say that the Rajon Rondo experiment failed in Dallas. With no other starting-caliber point guard on the roster, expect the Mavericks to pounce at the opportunity to take Payne. A gifted shooter and ball handler, Payne could play alongside Monta Ellis or run the second unit effectively. He is not an elite athlete but he is a high-awareness player that should help Dallas remain in the playoff picture.
- Chicago- Rondae Hollis-Jefferson | SF | Arizona | Sophomore
As long as Tom Thibodeau is the head coach in Chicago, expect him to continue to push for players that can defend multiple positions. Jimmy Butler came into the league as a defensive specialist that has expanded his game, and he will look to do the same with RHJ. An elite athlete, Hollis-Jefferson should be an excellent defender in the NBA, though he needs to work on his shot mechanics to earn minutes in year one.
- Portland- Trey Lyles | PF | Kentucky | Freshman
Lyles is a power forward that was forced to play at the three for extended stretches at Kentucky due to its frontcourt depth. Lyles has shown the ability to be an above-average rebounder and can score from multiple areas of the court, including a jump shot out to 17 feet. Defensively, Lyles is not a shot blocker, and may have some issues guarding strong opponents, but he possesses legitimate 6-10 size and could be a backup plan in Rip City in case LaMarcus Aldridge moves on.
- Cleveland- Montrezl Harrell | PF | Louisville | Junior
Tristan Thompson has been phenomenal in the playoffs for the Cleveland Cavaliers, excelling on the glass to create additional possessions. Given his strong play however, he may have played himself out of Cleveland’s price range to match an offer sheet. Harrell is a similar player who plays with fire and physicality on both ends of the floor. The Cavs should resign Kevin Love (if he chooses), and Harrell would make a terrific backup with potential to grow into a bigger piece.
- Memphis- Justin Anderson | SG | Virginia | Junior
Memphis performed admirably in the 2015 Playoffs, but fell short to Golden State in six games. The team could use an additional 3-point shooter, and Justin Anderson fits the bill as a player that can also play above-average defense on the wing. Prior to his injury that left him ineffective in the NCAA postseason, Anderson was on pace to be an All-American due to his scoring ability from the wing. He represents a great fit in Memphis behind Courtney Lee and Tony Allen.
- San Antonio- Jordan Mickey | PF | LSU | Sophomore
Whether or not Tim Duncan comes back to San Antonio, frontcourt depth is an issue that has to be addressed by RC Buford. Mickey was the star of the NBA Combine, showing the knack for blocking shots and collecting rebounds. He also showed flashes of an improved offense than what we saw at LSU. While Jarell Martin is higher in the latest Top 100, Mickey may have surpassed him on many draft boards.
- LA Lakers- Jarell Martin | SF/PF | LSU | Sophomore
Mickey did not pass Martin by much in this mock draft. After selecting Okafor with the second pick, the Lakers continue to bolster their frontcourt with a combo-forward in Jarell Martin. Martin could play a similar role as Lamar Odom as a bigger small forward if he can improve his outside shooting and ball handling. A very good rebounder on both ends and an improving defender, Martin represents good value at the end of the first round.
- Boston- Delon Wright | PG/SG | Utah | Senior
After taking Robert Upshaw with the 16th pick, the Celtics go the safer route with Delon Wright at 28. The All-Pac 12 point guard would work well in Brad Stevens’ system as a player that can handle the ball and defend multiple positions. Boston does not necessarily need another point guard, though Stevens routinely threw out three-guard sets during the clubs massive win streak. Wright is a smart player that should fit in seamlessly.
- Brooklyn- Aleksandar Vezenkov | SF/PF | Aris | 1995-born
With a team already well above the 2015-16 projected salary cap, the Nets could opt to select an international player that can remain overseas for at least one additional season. Vezenkov is a sharpshooter as a small forward or stretch-four, and is developing into a very good rebounder. Vezenkov has been very productive as a 19-year old in Greece, and would go higher if not for his lack of elite athleticism.
- Golden State- JP Tokoto | SG/SF | North Carolina | Junior
This might be a bit of a reach, but Tokoto fits exactly what Golden State will be looking for in the 2015 Draft. The former Tar Heel was arguably his team’s top playmaker last season, and when added to his elite athleticism and defensive potential one would see a player that fits Steve Kerr’s system. Tokoto would have some time to sit behind Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston before stepping in right away, but with an improved 3-point stroke this could be a sneaky good pick at the end of the first round.
- Minnesota- Terry Rozier | PG | Louisville | Sophomore
- Houston- Christian Wood | SF/PF | UNLV | Sophomore
- Boston- Cedi Osman | SF | Turkey | 1995-born
- LA Lakers- George de Paula | PG | Brazil | 1996-born
- Philadelphia- Chris McCullough | PF | Syracuse | Freshman
- Minnesota- Timothe Luwawu | SG | France | 1994-born
- Philadelphia- Tyler Harvey | PG/SG | Eastern Washington | Sophomore
- Detroit- Cliff Alexander | PF | Kansas | Freshman
- Charlotte- Rashad Vaughn | SG | UNLV | Freshman
- Miami- Andrew Harrison | PG | Kentucky | Sophomore
- Brooklyn- Dakari Johnson | C | Kentucky | Sophomore
- Utah- Marc Garcia | SG | Spain | 1996-born
- Indiana- Vince Hunter | SF/PF | UTEP | Sophomore
- Phoenix- Norman Powell | PG/SG | UCLA | Senior
- Boston- Anthony Brown | SG | Stanford | Senior
- Milwaukee- Mouhammadou Jaiteh | C | France | 1994-born
- Philadelphia- Guillermo Hernangomez | C | Spain | 1994-born
- Oklahoma City- Joseph Young | PG | Oregon | Senior
- Washington- Alan Williams | C | UC-Santa Barbara | Senior
- Atlanta- Rakeem Christmas | PF/C | Syracuse | Senior
- Orlando- Nikola Milutinov | C | Serbia | 1994-born
- Dallas- Michael Qualls | SG | Arkansas | Junior
- Cleveland- Michael Frazier II | SG | Florida | Junior
- Utah- Nenad Miljenovic | PG | Serbia | 1993-born
- San Antonio- Kevin Harley | SG | France | 1995-born
- New Orleans- Branden Dawson | SF/PF | Michigan State | Senior
- Denver- Olivier Hanlan | PG | Boston College | Junior
- Philadelphia- Aaron Harrison | SG | Kentucky | Sophomore
- Atlanta- Moussa Diagne | C | France | 1994-born
- Philadelphia- Oriol Pauli | SG | Spain | 1994-born
*Draft order current as of Thursday, May 19th.
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