As the NBA draft draws closer, this is the time when people start digging a little deeper and truly trying to figure out just who they want on their draft wishlists, in both best and worst case scenarios and their first and second choices.
Now, if you’re like me, the NBA Draft carries the same weight and excitement as major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, so I start tracking prospects back in December. Just last week, I gave you devoted readers your first mock draft. I’m incredibly proud of it, but it seems a bit, I don’t know, conventional.
That said, now that another week has passed and teams are giving a better indication of what they’re looking for, let’s take another step forward and shake things up a bit with Mock Draft 2.0.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
Though Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns is hands-down the best pick in this year’s draft class, the idea of him not getting picked first overall and seeing Okafor go to Minnesota isn’t entirely preposterous. Okafor has tremendous size at 6-foot-11, and has apparently lost some weight since winning a national championship with the Blue Devils.
Moreover, though he is primarily a face-up pick-and-roll center as opposed to the low post 5 that Minnesota coach Flip Saunders’ system normally calls for, Okafor has one thing Towns does not: championship experience.
Considering how the ‘Wolves have not even made the postseason since losing in the 2004 West Finals during Saunders’ first stint as head coach, Okafor winning a ring with Duke could end up being the trump card that makes them pass on Towns.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky
Now, I’d be in denial if I said I was going to predict the Lakers selecting Karl-Anthony Towns and that LA fans nationwide wouldn’t gather torches, head to New York and bang on my door demanding for my head. To that, I simply say hear me out.
Think of the best Lakers squads of the past decade. Besides having a great scoring guard in Kobe Bryant, the team has always had a reliable low post presence and they would have just that in Towns. Granted, the Lakers don’t run former coach and Hall of Famer Phil Jackson’s triangle offense under Byron Scott, but the lack of a true and dominant center has plagued the team since the departure of Andrew Bynum via the Dwight Howard trade.
Losing someone in Pau Gasol, who could play both power forward and center, also didn’t help matters.
In Towns, that void is easily filled.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
The Sixers already have their frontcourt set with Nerlens Noel and the upcoming debut of last year’s first-round pick in Joel Embiid, so the next step of the rebuild is finding a guard that can put points on the board while also contributing in other areas.
Since GM Sam Hinkie chose to end the Michael Carter-Williams experiment last season, Russell is the perfect prospect to fill that hole. He has great size for the point at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds, and can score in multiple ways as well as create plays for his teammates and play good on-ball defense.
Once Russell learns that he doesn’t need to be the Sixers’ sole savior and doesn’t rely so heavily on his jump shot, not to mention build on-court chemistry with Noel and Embiid, he’ll bring Philly one step closer to a postseason return.
4. New York Knicks: Justise Winslow, G/F, Duke
If the Knicks are going to keep running the triangle offense under second-year coach Derek Fisher, they’ll need a dynamic guard. Fortunately, Winslow is just that and according to ESPN New York’s Ian Begley, the former Blue Devil worked out for the team on Monday.
Winslow has a wing’s size at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, but would likely play shooting guard in the triangle while also seeing some minutes at his natural position at the 3. This would allow team star Carmelo Anthony to move to the 4, a position in which he excelled and won a scoring title during New York’s last winning season in 2012-13.
Winslow posted 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in his lone season at Duke, and his slashing abilities as well as his knack for draining threes makes him an idea fit for the Knicks.
If he can improve his strength and be willing to learn from Anthony, his championship experience will help put New York Knicks basketball back in the limelight where it belongs.
5. Orlando Magic: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
When it comes to this year’s draft class, Trey Lyles is the definition of a wild card. He could literally end up being picked ANYWHERE. This mock has him as a top 5 pick, while others have him projected as a late first rounder.
In this case, think of Orlando’s lineup.
The Magic have four solid starters in Elfrid Payton, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic, with a glaring hole at the 4. Lyles has the size for the position at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds and can play the pick-and-roll well on top of being able to stretch the floor when necessary.
With tough and gritty system of new head coach Scott Skiles set to be in place next season, Lyles should have a smooth transition on the offensive end.
Once he can up his defensive game, this can easily end up being a pick that seems like a reach, but ultimately helps Orlando in the end.
6. Sacramento Kings: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Baloncesto Sevilla, Spain
Every draft class has an international prospect that gets a lot of buzz and Porzingis has that honor this year. A 7-foot-1, 220 pound Latvian who has played in Spain since 2010, he has shown supreme dunking ability and is a fine face-up big man who can spot offensive rebounds with ease and also has great court vision in general.
But if Porzingis is going to make an impact in the NBA, he has to add some muscle as opposing defenders will eat his skinny frame alive. He also needs to work on his low post game and be a bit more aggressive on the defensive end.
The European leagues are very different from the NBA, playing at a much faster pace and putting more emphasis on a run-and-gun/pick-and-roll style, but Porzingis is going to be a special kind of player once he adjusts.
If Sacramento picks him and he can do just that, the team will take a long overdue step forward.
7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, G, Guangdong Southern Tigers, China
Mudiay is viewed as a surefire Top 5 pick in some mocks, so it’s understandable that some would be puzzled as to why he would drop to Denver at No. 7 in this case. Well, if reports are true, teams have concerns over his outside shooting ability.
The 19-year-old point guard did well in 12 games for Guangdong, averaging 18 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the field. However, Mudiay shot just 34 percent from long range and an abysmal 57 percent from the charity stripe.
If he’s going to succeed in the NBA, he needs to be more than just a slashing point guard with decent size at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds.
He’s still young and will have plenty of time to develop, which is why Denver is an ideal location for him. Current point man Ty Lawson’s contract is set to expire in two years, so having Mudiay spend time at both guard positions while he refines his craft could be the best solution as he works his way towards becoming an NBA star.
Moreover, once Denver hires a permanent head coach, predicting who they’ll select on draft day will become much easier.
8. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
The Pistons could lose many key pieces in free agency this summer, namely Greg Monroe and guard Reggie Jackson, so predicting their draft is tough. But assuming those two leave the Motor City, this year’s free agency class is deep enough that the voids can be filled relatively easily.
Thus, I’m picking Detroit to draft athleticism in Johnson.
Easily the best athlete in the draft class, Johnson has a tough and feisty build at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds and brings an uncanny ability to drive the lane for high-percentage shots as well as play excellent on-ball defense. Johnson also managed to immensely improve his jump shot in his one year at Arizona.
The one cause for concern with Johnson is that he played in a very fast system at Arizona and Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy prefers a much slower game. Fortunately, Johnson has a good head on his shoulders and is a fast learner and picking it up shouldn’t be a problem.
If he can have some solid talent around him his rookie season, his transition to the NBA will be much smoother.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Mario Hezonja, G/F, FC Barcelona Bàsquet, Spain
The Hornets already have a fine defensive wing in former first-round pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but they could use another who can provide a spark in the scoring department. Since Lance Stephenson has been a Grade A bust and Gerald Henderson could very well depart in free agency, GM Rich Cho would be wise to take a flyer on Hezonja.
The 20-year-old Croation has only averaged 12.8 minutes per contest in three years with Barcelona, but has a solid build for a wing at 6-foot-7, 218 pounds. He drives the lane well with a chip on his shoulder, and his three-point shot borders on deadly.
So long as he can improve his mid-range game and body control, he can become another weapon for the Hornets on the team’s path back to positivity.
10. Miami Heat: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Though Miami will definitely be a better team next year with a healthy Chris Bosh, who missed a good portion of last season with blood clots in his lungs. The team’s future is brighter with him at the 4 and an absolute defensive monster at the 5.
At 7-foot-0, 240 pounds, Cauley-Stein is that monster incarnate.
He isn’t going to be an offensive threat, nor is he going to be an eye-popping center a la Dikembe Mutombo or Shaquille O’Neal. Cauley-Stein is just going to be an excellent long-term solution at center for a Heat time that, despite its recent successes, has never had a truly dominant presence at the position.
Yes, Bosh spent his fair share of time at the 5, but he is more of a power forward.
So long as Miami expects just that from Cauley-Stein, he already has the tools to succeed.
11. Indiana Pacers: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
Following star Paul George’s recovery from a gruesome leg injury, Indiana needs some insurance in the scoring department. Fortunately, scoring is something that Booker does incredibly well, having averaged 10 points per contest for the Wildcats last season…OFF THE BENCH.
From dunking to three-point shooting, Booker can simply do it all.
Should he be selected by Indy with the 11th pick, he’ll immediately be in a position to become the Pacers’ starting 2-guard. Given his knack for hitting shots and absolute fearlessness, don’t be surprised if he ends up being the best Pacers’ shooting guard since Hall of Famer Reggie Miller.
12. Utah Jazz: Kelly Oubre, G/F, Kansas
The Jazz lineup is pretty crowded, so I’m guessing that they’ll either try to trade the pick or draft for organizational depth. Should the team choose to go with the latter, Oubre is a fine choice.
Oubre has a great outside shot and a bright future as a shooting guard, but isn’t quite NBA ready due to a general lack of strength and athleticism at 6-foot-7 and a spindly 200 pounds.
Thus, this is the perfect team for him to come off the bench as a rotational guy for a year or so, with maybe some time spent in the D-League.
Should the Dante Exum experiment not work out, he’ll have every chance to step in and prove himself.
For now, however, it is better for him to slowly adjust to the game and work on his flaws rather than immediately be thrust into the spotlight. With his superb shooting ability and thunderous dunking power, keep an eye on him for sure.
13. Phoenix Suns: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
Phoenix may seem like an odd choice for Dekker, as the Suns already have second-year man T.J. Warren at the wing among many others. Thus, why take Dekker when the roster is already filled with players who can play the position?
The long and short of it is that Phoenix has long been a team that has defined itself as one that puts up a ton of points in a short amount of time, and Dekker is someone who has three years of experience in Badgers coach Bo Ryan’s fast and feisty swing offense.
Nothing against Warren, but his playing style is better suited to more of an iso-game like the one in which he starred at N.C. State.
Oh, and there’s also the fact that Dekker turned on the afterburners in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 19.2 points per game while shooting an incredible 58 percent from the field and an eye-popping 43 percent from beyond the arc. He is a Chandler Parsons-like player that can absolutely thrive in a fast-paced offense.
As Phoenix looks to stay competitive in the tough Western Conference, Dekker is someone who can definitely inject life into the lineup.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Myles Turner, F/C, Texas
The Thunder have a solid rotation as it is and are sure to bounce back next season with a healthy Kevin Durant back in the lineup, but the center position is something of a question mark — Enes Kanter will be a restricted free agent and Steven Adams hasn’t exactly shown signs of being dominant despite only being a rising third-year player.
If there’s one thing that can be said about Turner, it’s that he at least has a higher ceiling than Adams and won’t cost as much money as Kanter will likely be demanding in free agency. He has a great build at 6-foot-11, 240 pounds and showed tremendous shot blocking abilities in his sole season with the Longhorns. His only real problem is that he likes to play a long game and while he has a pretty jumper, plus a knack for making the three, chances are new Thunder coach Billy Donovan will want him to work on his low post game.
Once he can incorporate that into his skillset on top of being able to play the pick-and-roll, his adjustment to the NBA should go smoothly.
15. Atlanta Hawks (from Brooklyn): Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
Mark my words, ladies and gentlemen. Bobby Portis is THE first-round sleeper of the 2015 draft. He has the size at 6-foot-11, 242 pounds and is an excellent scorer who can do work both under the basket and with his jump shot. His rebounding game isn’t too shabby either.
In terms of him going to Atlanta, it’s a perfect fit. He spent his college career playing in the region, so the fan base already knows him.
On top of that, the team is unlikely to pony up the dollars necessary to retain Paul Millsap.
Portis gives the Hawks a younger upgrade at the position who will come at a cheaper price, and one whose abilities give them an opportunity to build off of what was an excellent season.
16. Boston Celtics: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
The Celtics have way too many guards than they know what to do with, but second-year man Marcus Smart is better off as a defensive 2-guard and Isaiah Thomas is more useful as a spark off the bench, despite his heavy contract.
What head coach Brad Stevens needs to continue taking this team forward is a point man who will put points on the board, get his teammates involved and play with a chip on his shoulder.
Think Rajon Rondo, but a better offensive threat and not a head case.
That man is Payne, who led the Racers his sophomore year with 20.2 points and six assists per game, plus 1.9 steals. He’s on the skinny side at a lanky 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, but he plays with the tenacity of someone bigger and isn’t afraid to drive hard to the basket against players larger than he is.
Payne would also benefit from having solid talent around him in Beantown, namely Smart, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger.
The number of guards on the roster likely means he’ll have a hard time cracking the rotation as a rookie, but Payne has a good head on his shoulders and will be willing to learn every step of the way. In time, he’d become a great fit on this team.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin
Like the aforementioned Trey Lyles, Kaminsky is a wildcard. Just where he ends up is unpredictable. He could be a Top 10 pick or a late first-round selection. Anything is possible.
In this case, however, I’m going to give the Bucks a long-term solution at the 5 and have them take the man who became a household name playing in the state of Wisconsin. The reigning National College Player of the Year spent four years playing for the Badgers, and uses his long and lanky 7-foot-1, 231 pound frame to his advantage.
Playing for Jason Kidd in Milwaukee and in a system that utilizes a faster pace, he’d feel right at home playing for fans that are accustomed to cheering for him, so adjustments could be minimal.
Given his ability to stretch the floor, he could be just what Milwaukee needs.
On top of that, can you imagine the jersey sales?
18. Houston Rockets (from New Orleans): Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Houston plays a fast-paced game under head coach Kevin McHale and that system needs a viable power forward to truly work. Harrell is a bit small for the 4 at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, but plays pick-and-roll well and is a more durable solution than Terrence Jones, who will be a restricted free agent after next season.
Harrell is also remarkably athletic and is probably the best dunker in the draft. He’ll definitely undergo an adjustment period in terms of playing against bigger opponents at his position, but his drive to succeed is off the charts and his explosiveness would make Houston all the more fun to watch.
So long as he can coexist with Dwight Howard and James Harden, this could be a match made in draft heaven.
19. Washington Wizards: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona
Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t have much size at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, but proved to be a highly athletic presence in the fast-paced offense of Arizona his sophomore year. As a result, don’t be surprised if the Wizards draft him as a combo forward.
Simply put, this young man is a monster in the paint. He dunks, blocks shots, drives the lane well and has a great vertical leap.
In spite of his being small for the 4, I’m going to come out and say it: He’s a major upgrade over the oft-injured Nene. This would be an unconventional pick and one that could take time to pay off, but still a great value selection if it does indeed happen.
20. Toronto Raptors: Justin Anderson, G/F, Virginia
With Terrence Ross proving to be little more than a streaky shooter who can throw down great dunks and play uninspiring defense, Toronto GM Masai Ujiri needs to upgrade Toronto’s status at the 3. Anderson isn’t exactly built like a solid wing at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, but gives the Raptors the swingman that they need.
Though he missed a good chunk of last season with a hand injury, Anderson is someone with incredible versatility that can help take the Raptors to the next level. He has greatly improved his three-point shooting, is an explosive dunker, and can also rise up to block a shot every now and again.
If Toronto selects him, next year’s team will definitely be one to watch.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame
The Mavericks are in a position where their backcourt could very well need to be revamped. It’s no secret that Rajon Rondo is not going to be back with the team next year and 2-guard Monta Ellis could wind up opting out of his contract.
Thus, GM Donny Nelson would be wise to draft a scoring guard in Grant so that he doesn’t have to scramble once free agency begins in July.
Grant is a fine combo guard with size at 6-foot-5, 202 pounds, and has shown that he can score from practically anywhere on the floor. He also plays feisty defense and isn’t afraid to dump the ball off to a teammate, which is important in head coach Rick Carlisle’s system.
With Grant potentially on the court with fellow excellent scorers Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki, look for Dallas to get back into NBA Finals contention sooner rather than later so long as Grant can find consistency and be willing to learn from veterans.
22. Chicago Bulls: Delon Wright, G, Utah
Chicago is about to enter a new era under Fred Hoiberg and the team would be wise to add some scoring talent besides Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Butler is also set to hit restricted free agency this summer and, while it’s highly unlikely that the team would let him walk, it’s always nice to have a Plan B.
In this case, Wright is just that.
Don’t get me wrong. Chicago already has many of the necessary tools to take a step forward towards a championship, but could use a bit more in the depth department, especially given the injury history of Derrick Rose.
Wright is a combo guard who defines depth, as he can do everything from score points to pass to even play great on-ball defense.
It’s unclear just what Hoiberg’s system in the NBA is going to be, but the fact that he is an ex-college coach who also played in the league will help Wright make a smooth transition to the professional ranks. So long as Wright is prepared to be more of a rotational guy in the beginning of his career as opposed to the alpha dog he was at Utah, this could wind up being a great fit.
23. Portland Trail Blazers: Guillermo Hernangómez, C, Baloncesto Sevilla, Spain
Like many teams this summer, Portland could lose a key piece in Lamarcus Aldridge to free agency. Thus, while Hernangómez isn’t a strong scoring threat, he at least provides some solid size in the frontcourt at 6-foot-11, 249 pounds.
Known to his teammates as “Willy,” Hernangómez is a pure low post guy who mans the paint with authority and defines old school. He isn’t overly athletic and isn’t going to be explosive or protect the rim with an iron fist, but Hernangómez will do his job effectively and provide plenty of protection for guys like Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews as they prepare for the possibility of not having Aldridge around.
Also, like anyone really, he’s an upgrade over free-agent-to-be Robin Lopez.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV
Though the Cavs have a great team headlined by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, a true shooting guard that does more than just jack up threes (coughJRSMITHcough) would be a big help and take some pressure off of the stars.
Vaughn made his bones at UNLV as a 2-guard that could hold his own from beyond the arc, averaging 17.8 points as a freshman and shooting 38 percent from downtown, but he is also a great slasher who can make shots both inside and in the mid-range.
Look at it this way. J.R. Smith has the option to opt out of his contract at the end of this season and given how he’s on the verge of winning a championship as a key member of the team, not to mention that he’s a complete knucklehead, to see him remain in Cleveland would be shocking.
Iman Shumpert is an excellent athlete, but his scoring abilities are limited to occasionally slashing toward the hoop and drilling wide open threes. If anything, he’s best suited as a pest.
Vaughn can help change that in Cleveland, helping James, Irving and maybe even Kevin Love shoulder the scoring load as the Cavs look to continue being title contenders.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Though Jones was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, he’s a bit small for the NBA and isn’t overly athletic at just 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. Fortunately, Memphis could be needing a point guard after next season when Mike Conley hits free agency and Jones’ playing style can make it seem as though Conley never left.
Like Conley, Jones is an excellent on-ball defender who can also drill threes as well as drive the lane for the tough shots. The last area is something he’ll need to work on, as he shot just 42 percent from the field as a freshman, but has a high enough ceiling that he could be worth Memphis’ while.
Oh, and there’s also the championship experience that could help rally the Grizzlies to the next level.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Kevon Looney, F, UCLA
This is quite the drop for Looney, whom I had as a mid-first round selection in my first mock draft. The long and short of why he fell this far is that though he’s an incredible defender, he just doesn’t have enough to offer on the offensive end nor in the size department to warrant being picked higher.
Fortunately, with the Spurs needing to prepare for the possibility that team leader Tim Duncan may not be back next season, Looney could find an opening in San Antonio. He won’t cover the scoring loss, but has the size and tenacity at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds to will his way into the regular rotation and just be a defensive beast.
Looney can rebound, play on-ball D and even rise up to block shots. Given how much Spurs coach Gregg Popovich values toughness and hard work, it’s hard to imagine Looney not fitting in.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston): RJ Hunter, SG, Georgia State
Now that the Lakers have their big man, it’s time for them to draft a guard. This could very well be Kobe Bryant’s final season, and it’s important for GM Mitch Kupchak to find the Black Mamba’s successor so the rebuilding phase goes smoothly and doesn’t last longer than it needs to.
Hunter is a streaky scorer who made just 39.5 percent of his shots last season and relies too heavily on his jumper, but averaged 18.3 points per game in three seasons with the Panthers.
This young man knows how to put points on the board and, so long as he follows Bryant’s example and learns how to pick his shots better, he could easily help the next generation of Lakers create their own championship legacy.
28. Boston Celtics (from Clippers): Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse
One thing that Boston definitely will need next year is depth at the 4 and McCullough is the perfect man for that. He has the height at 6-foot-10, 220 pounds, plus the length to the point where he can easily grab rebounds and block shots.
In a generally weak Eastern Conference where defense is the name of the game among teams struggling for the last few playoff spots, McCullough would give Boston an advantage.
If he can add some pounds to his skinny frame, he’ll definitely become an impactful rotational guy over his first few seasons. If he can learn when and when not to use his jump shot, then he has starter potential.
29. Brooklyn Nets (from Atlanta): Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville
It’s becoming more and more obvious that Deron Williams isn’t going to be the player to bring the Nets a championship and GM Billy King needs to draft a player who plays a similar style, but also doesn’t cost as much. Having a more positive attitude would also help.
Enter Rozier, who is an excellent scoring point guard who isn’t afraid to drive the lane and take the hard shots despite being just 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. He only shot 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from long range his sophomore season, but averaged 17.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Given his size, that’s quite impressive.
Rozier also makes sense because King is basically looking to blow the team up and start from scratch, and having a guard who can score and also get teammates involved plus play defense is a step in the right direction.
This late in the first round, Rozier is a phenomenal pick for a team entering that phase.
30. Golden State Warriors: Christian Wood, PF, UNLV
The Warriors are currently in the NBA Finals and have one of the best, deepest teams in the league, so their best bet is to use their first round pick on organizational depth.
Given how center Andrew Bogut’s contract is up in a couple of years and he isn’t likely to be kept around beyond the length of that deal, I’m going to predict that GM Bob Meyers drafts size that coach Steve Kerr can spend two years developing.
Wood fits that profile, as he has the height at 6-foot-11 but is way too skinny at 220 pounds.
Despite that, he was a star big man for UNLV his sophomore season and averaged 15.7 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game while shooting 50 percent from the field. He is very raw and will need to up his strength in order to keep up in Golden State’s fast and feisty system, but has the defensive tools to be a force in the middle for the team once Bogut’s contract is up.
All in all, though he doesn’t seem like an ideal fit in the system, he’s one that’s just crazy enough to work.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports