And-Ones: Towns, Okafor, Vaughn, Jazz

Duke center Jahlil Okafor has long been considered the favorite to become the top pick in the 2015 draft, but for the first time since Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has been compiling his prospect rankings for this year, he’s slipped to No. 2, as Givony notes via Twitter. That means Kentucky forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns has overtaken Okafor in his rankings as well as the ones Chad Ford of puts together. Of course, there’s still nearly three months to go until draft night, and much can change between now and then. It nonetheless sets up what would surely be a dream matchup in the NCAA tournament final for NBA scouts and executives if Kentucky and Duke are to win their respective semifinals on Saturday. There’s more draft news amid the latest from around the league:

  • UNLV freshman shooting guard Rashad Vaughn has signed with agent Omar Wilkes of Octagon Sports, according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress (Twitter link). Vaughn last week denied a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that he was planning to declare for the draft, but signing with an agent wouldn’t allow him to return to school, which suggests that Vaughn is indeed draft-bound.
  • Three dozen of 59 NBA executives who spoke to Chris Broussard of support playoff realignment, with the vast majority of the opposition coming from Eastern Conference teams (Twitter link).
  • Elijah Millsap landed his three-year deal with Jazz thanks to an agent who is four years younger than he is, and Cameron Chung of the Sports Agent Blog chronicles the sudden emergence of 23-year-old Daniel Hazan and his Hazan Sports Management agency.
  • The glut of high-level point guards in the NBA is a severe impediment to teams that don’t have one, as Kevin Pelton of examines in an Insider-only piece, suggesting that clubs like the Knicks and Sixers should prioritize finding point guards in the offseason.

Eastern Notes: Realignment, Love, Butler, Pistons

The Pacers, for all their woes, would make the playoffs if they began today, as Eastern Conference teams enjoy a much easier path to the postseason, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban isn’t the only one around the league pushing to change that. Discussion about realignment is just in “some infant stage” as it circulates among the NBA’s power brokers, Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes, but commissioner Adam Silver says the league is closely studying the issue. Suns owner Robert Sarver and Thunder brass are among those who’ve advocated the idea of simply taking the 16 best teams for the playoffs, Lowe reports. Those teams would stand to benefit from such a structure this year, and there’s concern around the league that self-interest will drive the debate, as Lowe also notes. While we wait to see whether momentum gathers for change, here’s the latest from the weaker conference:

  • Kevin Love indicated his desire to remain in Cleveland for the long term shortly after the trade that brought him to the Cavs, and he reiterated his intention to do so in a radio appearance with Chris Mannix of and NBC Sports Radio, as “The Chris Mannix Show” Twitter account relays. Love can opt out of his contract at season’s end, but last month he batted down a rumor that he had interest in signing with the Lakers this coming summer.
  • Rasual Butler has proven quite a find for the Wizards after having made the team out of camp on a non-guaranteed deal for the minimum salary, as Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post examines after Butler’s game-high 23 points in Monday’s win against the Heat.
  • Stan Van Gundy‘s failure to offload either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith in the summer stunted his ability to affect real changes for the Pistons, who are stuck between full-on rebuilding and trying to win now, opines Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News.