With the NBA draft lottery now complete and the draft order set, the weeks ahead will be filled with reports of interviews, workouts, and teams trying to hide who they are interested in selecting. While the 2015 draft class doesn’t bring with it the same level of hype as last year’s, there are still a number of players who can change the face of a franchise and develop into tomorrow’s superstars.
No draft pick is ever a sure thing, and careers will be made as well as broken based on the moves made on the night of June 25th. There should also be a significant amount of trade talk revolving around the draft, and there are quite a few teams that could end up dealing away draft picks in exchange for veteran players or future assets.
Front offices are still figuring out their respective draft boards, and upcoming pre-draft workouts will launch the stocks of a few players and send others tumbling by the wayside. While I anticipate my mock draft changing over the weeks to come, this is my initial read on whose name each team will likely have commissioner Adam Silver intone while on stage for the first round at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
#1 Timberwolves — Karl-Anthony Towns F/C (Kentucky)
- Height/Weight: 7’0″/250 pounds
- Stats: 10.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 2.3 BPG. .566/.250/.813.
The latest reports have Minnesota leaning toward selecting Jahlil Okafor with the top pick. But I firmly believe that the Wolves will become increasingly enamored with Towns’ superior defense, athleticism, and upside as the pre-draft process wears on. Towns would also be a better fit than Okafor alongside Nikola Pekovic, provided he recovers from his Achilles surgery. With Towns running the floor alongside Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and the rest of the young athletic talent on Minnesota’s roster, the team may not make the playoffs next season, but it should become a regular fixture on SportsCenter’s top plays.
#2 Lakers — Jahlil Okafor C (Duke)
- Height/Weight: 6’11”/272 pounds
- Stats: 17.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. .664/.000/.510.
Okafor becomes the prize for the franchise moving up in the draft order on lottery night. Los Angeles could throw a wrench in my mock draft by selecting a guard, but I think the idea of adding a potential franchise cornerstone like Okafor at the pivot will be too tempting to pass up. The Lakers can solidify the middle with this pick for years to come, and pairing Okafor alongside Julius Randle should make for a formidable frontcourt.
#3 Sixers — D’Angelo Russell G (Ohio State)
- Height/Weight: 6’5″/176 pounds
- Stats: 19.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 5.0 APG. .449/.411/.756.
Not landing the No. 1 overall pick this season is actually a blessing in disguise for the franchise. As long as the top two teams go big, Philadelphia will have no choice but to address its glaring hole in the backcourt, rather than stockpiling another big man to go alongside Joel Embiid and Nerlens Noel. Philadelphia could opt for Emmanuel Mudiay here, but Russell’s playmaking ability and versatility should get him the nod at pick No. 3.
#4 Knicks — Emmanuel Mudiay G (China)
- Height/Weight: 6’5″/200 pounds
- Stats: 18.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 6.3 APG. .493/.321/.586.
There is a distinct possibility that the Knicks attempt to deal this pick for an established star, having lost out on the chance to select Towns or Okafor by falling in the draft order. New York has so many roster needs, trading down for multiple picks could also seem appealing for team president Phil Jackson. But if the franchise holds onto the pick, which it should, Mudiay is the likely choice, though his developmental curve will be difficult to manage amongst the growing impatience of owner James Dolan and the team’s disgruntled fanbase. Willie Cauley-Stein or Justise Winslow are very real possibilities at this spot as well, but I’m going with Mudiay for now at No. 4.
#5 Magic — Kristaps Porzingis F (Latvia)
- Height/Weight: 7’0″/220 pounds
- Stats: 10.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 0.9 BPG. .560/.328/.750.
While I’m not sold on Porzingis as a top five talent, scouts and front office types reportedly are. There’s no denying Porzingis’ athleticism and potential, but there have been far too many international lottery picks who have turned out to be busts for my comfort level. But Orlando needs to add some frontcourt scoring and outside shooting, and the young Latvian certainly has the potential to provide both. Winslow is a possibility at this spot, but his outside game is still a work in progress, and he’s considered a bit of a tweener as well.
#6 Kings — Willie Cauley-Stein C (Kentucky)
- Height/Weight: 7’0″/244 pounds
- Stats: 8.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 1.7 BPG. .572/.000/.617.
DeMarcus Cousins has reportedly been pushing to be used more as a power forward, and Cauley-Stein would be a great addition to pair alongside the mercurial big man. Cauley-Stein won’t provide much in the way of offense, but he’ll be ready to play immediately, and his defensive ability will be a welcome addition in Sacramento.
#7 Nuggets — Justise Winslow F (Duke)
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/221 pounds
- Stats: 12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 2.1 APG. .486/.418/.641.
The Nuggets need talent at virtually every position, and Winslow would be a steal at No. 7. His outside game needs more consistency, and he might not have a defined position, but his defense, character, and open court skills will be most welcome in Denver. If Winslow develops the way that I think he will, the Nuggets could be snagging themselves the next Kawhi Leonard here.
#8 Pistons — Mario Hezonja G/F (Croatia)
- Height/Weight: 6’7″/200 pounds
- Stats: 8.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 1.1 APG. .475/.406/.739.
The Pistons need to add someone who can stretch the floor and fill up the stat sheet from the wing position. Hezonja has a wealth of talent, though he’s reportedly had issues with his attitude and maturity while playing overseas. While Detroit could go for Devin Booker or Stanley Johnson at this spot, I say Stan Van Gundy rolls the dice and goes for the superior upside and athleticism of Hezonja with this pick.
#9 Hornets — Devin Booker G (Kentucky)
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/195 pounds
- Stats: 10.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, and 1.1 APG. .470/.411/.828.
Charlotte desperately needs to add some outside shooting, and Booker may very well be the best in the entire draft from beyond the arc. He’s not as athletic as some teams might prefer, but he has the potential to become something special in the league in a few seasons.
#10 Heat — Sam Dekker F (Wisconsin)
- Height/Weight: 6’9″/230 pounds
- Stats: 13.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.2 APG. .525/.331/.708.
There are quite a few ways that Miami could go with this pick. Dwyane Wade isn’t getting any younger, nor are his knees, so a wing like Kelly Oubre could be a very real possibility here. But I’m going with Dekker as the pick for the Heat. While he wasn’t as consistent in college as many scouts would like to see, his versatility and skillset make him just the sort of player Pat Riley loves. He can slide in as a stretch four off of the bench, or if Luol Deng departs, he could be the team’s starting small forward next season.
#11 Pacers — Myles Turner C (Texas)
- Height/Weight: 6’11”/242 pounds
- Stats: 10.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 2.6 BPG. .455/.274/.839.
The Pacers have made no secret that they wish to part ways with Roy Hibbert and his $15,514,031 player option for next season. Team president Larry Bird has also indicated that the franchise wishes to become more athletic and play a faster paced game. Neither of which play to Hibbert’s strengths. It’s highly doubtful that the big man will opt out of his contract for next season, so barring a trade, he’ll be on the roster for 2015/16. But the team will need to find a replacement and its center of the future. Turner is more of a stretch four at this point, but if Indiana wants to go with a quicker lineup, then the big man from Texas could be a fit at the pivot. David West is also getting up there in years, and he also possesses a player option for next season ($12.6MM), so Turner could also be groomed to take over the four spot.
#12 Jazz — Frank Kaminsky F/C (Wisconsin)
- Height/Weight: 7’0″/242 pounds
- Stats: 18.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 1.5 BPG. .547/.416/.780.
Utah could definitely stand to add some offense to its roster, and Kaminsky can certainly provide that. I don’t see him becoming a viable option in the NBA at center, but as a stretch four he could be quite productive. He could essentially replace what the franchise lost when it dealt away Enes Kanter this season, including his porous defense. But with Rudy Gobert patrolling the paint, the team should still be OK on the defensive end. Kaminsky is also a solid teammate and has an excellent basketball IQ. Coach Quin Snyder should be able to get creative with how he uses Kaminsky, as well as minimize exposing his flaws and lack of athleticism.
#13 Suns — Stanley Johnson F (Arizona)
- Height/Weight: 6’7″/237 pounds
- Stats: 13.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 1.5 SPG. .446/.371/.742.
Johnson has the talent to go higher, but slips to No. 13 based on his lack of a reliable outside game and teams filling other needs. But Johnson’s slide becomes the Suns’ gain, as they nab a solid wing who has an NBA-ready frame and a high motor. Phoenix could use a bit more punch from the small forward spot, and Johnson gets to continue to play in Arizona. Seems like a perfect fit. Cameron Payne and Trey Lyles are also possibilities here if Phoenix decides to go in a different direction with this pick.
#14 Thunder — Cameron Payne PG (Murray State)
- Height/Weight: 6’2″/180 pounds
- Stats: 20.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 6.0 APG. .456/.377/.787.
The Thunder need a reliable backup for Russell Westbrook, as well as some more firepower off the bench. Payne can certainly fill both of those needs, though he’s a player who could creep into the top 10 if he wows teams during his workouts. If that ends up happening OKC could switch gears and nab Oubre here instead.
#15 Hawks (via Nets) — Trey Lyles F (Kentucky)
- Height/Weight: 6’10″/235 pounds
- Stats: 8.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 1.1 APG. .487/.138.735.
The Hawks could potentially need to replace both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll, both of whom hit free agency this summer. Lyles’ stats aren’t eye-popping, thanks to Kentucky’s depth and platoon system, but this kid has the potential to be a solid contributor. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but that can be said for the majority of big men making the transition to the pros. If Atlanta elects for a more offensively minded player, then Bobby Portis could come into play here.
#16 Celtics — Bobby Portis F (Arkansas)
- Height/Weight: 6’11″/242 pounds
- Stats: 17.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, and 1.4 BPG. .536/.467/.737.
Speaking of Portis…Boston could use some depth and athleticism from the four spot, and Portis can certainly provide both. The forward isn’t a stellar defender, so pairing him alongside center Kelly Olynyk could be a disaster for the team’s defensive ranking. But at pick No. 16, the former Arkansas player would provide excellent value, and be a solid addition to the Celtics’ rotation.
#17 Bucks — Kelly Oubre G/F (Kansas)
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/204 pounds
- Stats: 9.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 0.8 APG. .444/.358/.718.
Oubre’s lone season at Kansas was a bit of a disappointment, and he never lived up to the hype that preceded his arrival in Lawrence. But the 19-year-old certainly has lottery-level talent, though it will take a couple of seasons before he’ll be able to harness his abilities at the NBA level. The Bucks are a team on the rise, and have a number of young and intriguing pieces. Oubre will become one more asset for Milwaukee to build around. If Oubre is gone prior to this slot the team will likely go with either the best big man still on the board, or perhaps a wing defender like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
#18 Rockets (via Pelicans) — Tyus Jones PG (Duke)
- Height/Weight: 6’1″/184 pounds
- Stats: 11.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 5.6 APG. .417/.379/.889.
The Rockets need to improve at the point guard spot, and Jones is a pass-first playmaker who will pair nicely alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard. Jones is still a bit raw, and his athleticism leaves something to be desired. But his upside is higher than Delon Wright‘s or Jerian Grant‘s, so he gets the nod here.
#19 Wizards — Kevon Looney F (UCLA)
- Height/Weight: 6’9″/220 pounds
- Stats: 11.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 0.9 BPG. .470/.415/.626.
Looney could work his way up in the draft order with strong showings during his workouts. His athleticism, long-term potential, and offensive skillset are all very good. But Looney enters the draft with a number of questions regarding his conditioning and drive, and according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required), Looney may suffer from asthma, which won’t help his draft stock if that is indeed the case. The other knock on Looney is that he’s a tweener, and may not have a defined NBA position. But the Wizards can afford to take a flier on him based off of his potential at the No. 19 spot in the draft.
#20 Raptors — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson F (Arizona)
- Height/Weight: 6’7″/215 pounds
- Stats: 11.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 1.6 APG. .502/.207/.707.
Toronto desperately needs to improve on the defensive end, and snagging Hollis-Jefferson, who is perhaps the best wing defender in the entire draft, would be a great start to correcting that deficiency. His outside game, or lack thereof, is what is preventing him from being a lottery pick. But in the open court he is exciting to watch, and with some hard work and serious gym time he could develop into a steal at this spot.
#21 Mavericks — Jerian Grant PG (Notre Dame)
- Height/Weight: 6’5″/185 pounds
- Stats: 16.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 6.7 APG. .478/.316/.780.
The Mavs desperately need a point guard, especially since Rajon Rondo is almost assuredly going to be playing elsewhere next season. Grant is perhaps the most NBA-ready playmaker in the draft, which is important for a veteran laden team like Dallas. He is a solid all-around player who can step right in as a solid rotation piece for the 2015/16 campaign.
#22 Bulls — Delon Wright G (Utah)
- Height/Weight: 6’5″/178 pounds
- Stats: 14.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 5.1 APG. .509/.356/.836.
Derrick Rose can no longer be counted on to play a full NBA season, and his backup, Kirk Hinrich, isn’t getting any younger. Chicago desperately needs to add some depth at the point, and Wright is the best remaining playmaker available. Though he’ll need to bulk up and improve his outside game if he wants to get on the court during his rookie campaign.
#23 Trail Blazers — Montrezl Harrell F (Louisville)
- Height/Weight: 6’8″/243 pounds
- Stats: 15.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 1.4 APG. .566/.243/.597.
If LaMarcus Aldridge departs as a free agent the franchise will have an enormous hole to fill at the four spot. Even if the team re-signs the power forward this summer the Blazers will still need to add frontcourt depth. Harrell would be a nice addition, though preferably as Aldridge’s backup. He projects to be a solid player, and fills a need spot for Portland as well.
#24 Cavaliers — R.J. Hunter G (Georgia State)
- Height/Weight: 6’5″/190 pounds
- Stats: 19.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 3.6 APG. .396/.307/.878.
If J.R. Smith opt out of his deal, then shooting guard will become an area of need for the Cavs. Even if Smith returns, Hunter would still be a nice addition to the team. Hunter had a rough season shooting the rock, but he has the makings of a player who will be better as a pro than in college. I really like Hunter’s game, and he would be a nice value pick at this spot for Cleveland.
#25 Grizzlies — Christian Wood F (UNLV)
- Height/Weight: 6’11″/220 pounds
- Stats: 15.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 2.7 BPG. .497/.284/.736.
While Wood has a load of talent, there are a number of scouts who question his work ethic and conditioning. There are a few ways Memphis could go with this pick, but with Marc Gasol and Kosta Koufos becoming unrestricted free agents this summer, nabbing a big man should be a priority for the franchise. Jarell Martin and Robert Upshaw are also possibilities here.
#26 Spurs — Justin Anderson G/F (Virginia)
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/227 pounds.
- Stats: 12.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.7 APG. .466/.452/.780.
Anderson might not be available this late in the first round if he aces his pre-draft workouts. But if he’s still on the board at No. 26, the Spurs shouldn’t hesitate to grab this athletic 3-and-D wing. Anderson should fit in extremely well in San Antonio. Both on the court, as well as within the team’s stellar culture. George De Paula is also a strong possibility here given Tony Parker‘s advancing age, and the Spurs’ propensity to draft foreign born players.
#27 Lakers (via Rockets) — George De Paula G (Brazil)
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/205 pounds
- Stats: 10.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 3.1 RPG. .500/.750/.500.
The Lakers already nabbed a big man at pick No. 2, and now the franchise can grab a potential steal in De Paula, aka George Lucas. The 18-year-old is extremely raw and could end up slipping to the second round. But with the Lakers being a few seasons away from contention, barring an unexpectedly robust free agent haul this offseason, gambling on De Paula’s potential could pay off big time down the road. Rashad Vaughn is also a possibility at this spot.
#28 Celtics (via Clippers) — Jarell Martin F (LSU)
- Height/Weight: 6’10″/236 pounds
- Stats: 16.9 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 1.8 APG. .509/.269/.690.
If the Celtics don’t trade this pick, which I think they will, adding another big man will likely be the play here. Martin doesn’t have the prototypical length and wingspan teams generally look for, but he has enough talent and upside for the team to take a chance on him. Injured Syracuse forward Chris McCullough is also a very real option here, as is Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson.
#29 Nets (via Hawks) — Rashad Vaughn G (UNLV)
- Height/Weight: 6’6″/215 pounds
- Stats: 17.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.6 APG. .439/.383/.694.
The Nets recover rather well from having to swap picks with the Hawks and land Vaughn, who could turn out to be a steal at this spot. Vaughn could evolve into a dominant scorer in the league, though he won’t contribute much during his rookie campaign. The franchise really needs to find a gem here given its crippling lack of draft picks the next few seasons. Vaughn might be the best and only option to do so this late in the first round. Brooklyn’s other option here is to select a point guard, another team need. If so, Louisville’s Terry Rozier could be the guy.
#30 Warriors — Robert Upshaw C (Washington)
- Height/Weight: 7’0″/255 pounds
- Stats: 11.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 4.2 BPG. .593/.000/.434.
Upshaw has lottery potential, but his documented substance abuse issues have lowered his draft stock quite a bit. There have been reports that teams will be leery of selecting him in round one because of the guaranteed contract that comes along with any first-rounder. But Golden State can afford to take the gamble, and the franchise needs to add depth at the pivot. At pick No. 30 Upshaw is worth the risk. Teams that select at the bottom of round one don’t often get a chance to nab a potential star, which Upshaw could be, if he can put his troubled past behind him.