We’re just over a week away from the 2015 NBA Draft, and the twists and turns just keep on a-coming. Stocks have gone up and down multiple times, and just which player will end up with which team is becoming harder and harder.
In fact, let’s cut to the chase and get right to it. This is Mock Draft 3.0!
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky
It’s no secret that if not Jahlil Okafor, Towns is going to go first overall. He’s simply the best player available at this spot. With great size at seven feet tall and 250 pounds, he’s a big body that center-needy teams constantly dream of having in the paint. With Minnesota needing an upgrade over rotational guy Gorgui Dieng and the constantly injured Nikola Pekovic, Towns is going to be their man come draft day. So long as he becomes more aware of his size and uses it to dominate the low post, he has all the tools to become one of the league’s more dominant young big man.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C, Baloncesto Sevilla, Spain
Some may cry foul at the Lakers using the second overall pick to draft an international prospect in Porzingis, and I’ll be the first to admit that he is a bit of a reach. But there’s also the fact that the 7-foot-1 Latvian recently had a private workout with the Lakers, and word on the street is that he is unlike other international prospects that have come to the NBA only to crash and burn.
It should also be noted that in recent years, the Lakers have played well when star Kobe Bryant has a reliable big man working with him. Porzingis’ game has been compared to that of Pau Gasol, who won two rings with the Lakers, and he has the overall versatility that he can enjoy the same kind of success so long as his adjustment to the slower pace of the NBA goes smoothly. If he can beef up and learn how to play center as well as the 4, the Lakers could soon be back on the path to glory even if Bryant does retire after the upcoming season.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke
For those who thought that the Sixers wouldn’t be considering a big man in this year’s draft, guess again. Rumor has it that 2014 first round pick Joel Embiid could miss all of next season after suffering a setback with the same foot injury that kept him out all of last year, which means that Philly will need a center to help complement Nerlens Noel. Fortunately, Okafor could be available at No. 3 and would be a fine fit in the City of Brotherly Love. In his one season with the Blue Devils, he proved to be an excellent face-up center who can score explosively and stay glued to the boards, just what the Sixers need. Oh, and let’s not forget his championship experience, having won a national title in his only college campaign.
Once he can further develop his low post game, Okafor can definitely be a big man who averages a double-double for a season.
4. New York Knicks: D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State
At this point, the Knicks’ plans seem to include keeping star scorer Carmelo Anthony and sticking with the triangle offense despite it not working out well last year. The amount of money the team will have to spend in free agency would be best used on a big man who can defend, but there’s one other thing to consider: as great a player as Anthony is, he’s really only as good as the point guard getting him the ball. Look at how he did in multiple seasons playing with Chauncey Billups, plus a short time with Jeremy Lin and Raymond Felton.
Thus, by adding a scoring point guard in Russell, the Knicks could hit a special kind of jackpot. Not only would they have a player who could create scoring opportunities for the rest of the team, but also one who could help shoulder the scoring load and help out on the defensive end. Russell has great height and length for a point guard at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds and while it wouldn’t hurt him to bulk up a bit, he’s a unique type of player at his position and could help the Knicks take multiple steps in the right direction.
5. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja, G/F, FC Barcelona Bàsquet, Spain
The Magic have a glaring hole at power forward but given the amount of money the front office will have to spend on top of the great number of big men on the free agent market this season, chances are that GM Rob Hennigan will instead draft for depth. Which leads the conversation to Hezonja, a dynamic Croatian wing who has spent the entirety of his professional career in Spain.
Though he has only averaged just under 13 minutes per game in three seasons with Barcelona, the 20-year-old is definitely a player who could end up making a lot of noise in the NBA if his transition is smooth. He is a phenomenal athlete, with superior dunking ability and a three-point shot that borders on deadly. Whether or not Orlando would play draft-and-stash or bring him over immediately remains to be seen, but Hezonja is someone who can become a strong and versatile scorer so long as his new team is patient with him and doesn’t rush his development. Hey may seem like a reach at fifth overall, but is definitely a high risk-high reward type player.
6. Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Under head coach George Karl, the Kings are going to be playing a lot of dribble-drive offense. This means that big man DeMarcus Cousins moving to the 4 would be preferable, and thus a hole at the 5 is born. Fortunately, Cauley-Stein has excellent size to play center at seven feet tall and 240 pounds.
He wouldn’t put a bunch of points on the board in Karl’s system, but Cauley-Stein would definitely be a strong rebounder and amazing shot blocker. With the pieces to succeed already in place, Cauley-Stein’s presence in Sacramento could definitely bring the team a step closer to the dominance it enjoyed just over a decade ago.
7. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay, G, Guangdong Southern Tigers, China
Though many have Mudiay pegged as a top five pick, particularly because he spurned college to play professionally overseas and did quite well there, his lack of a strong jump shot has people concerned, myself included. Though he did post 18 points and 5.9 assists per contest in 12 games for Guangdong, shooting 48 percent from the field, he shot just 34 percent from long range and an abysmal 57 percent from the free-throw line. For a 6-foot-5, 200 pound guard, that is unacceptable.
Thus, don’t be surprised if Mudiay falls a few spots on Draft Day for that very reason. Denver wouldn’t be an ideal place for him as a rookie, as he is more of a point guard and the Nuggets are set there with Ty Lawson for at least the next two years, don’t be surprised if new coach Mike Malone lets Mudiay be a rotational guy for a year or two as he adjusts to playing a faster pace. So long as he lets himself be coached and gets the necessary playing time to adjust to a new system, the young man considered by many to be the best in this year’s draft class could write himself a recipe for success.
8. Detroit Pistons: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky
Lyles is the definitive wild card of the draft, as he could potentially go anywhere from the lottery picks to late in the first round. However, what with Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy likely needing a power forward if Greg Monroe departs via free agency, Lyles is a better and cheaper option than splurging in free agency. He has the size at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, and the ability the play the pick-and-roll in the paint on top of spacing the floor with his jump shot. He’s only 19 and has to work on his defense, but this former Wildcat plays hard and will only get better with age.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Justise Winslow, G/F, Duke
Now that Lance Stephenson has been traded and the newly acquired Spencer Hawes is likely to assume the role of starting power forward, the Hornets could use a more consistent option than Gerald Henderson at shooting guard. Winslow is more of a wing, but he has the explosiveness around the rim and a strong enough three-point shot that he can play the 3 and 2 equally well. He could initially struggle to find minutes in Charlotte, as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has small forward locked down for now, but Winslow is a strong enough player that he’ll find a way to get himself noticed regardless of playing time. Give him time, and he’ll definitely become an impact player.
10. Miami Heat: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona
The Heat are headed towards a rebuild, particularly with the uncertainty surrounding the future of franchise icon Dwyane Wade, so a player who can both score and be explosive on the defensive end could be just what the doctor ordered. Enter Johnson, who thrived in a fast-paced environment at Arizona and improved his jump shot immensely throughout the season as well as playing excellent defense from start to finish.
Johnson is toughly built at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds and can do everything from slash to the basket to rebound to be the most irritating of pests. His jump shot could still use a little work, but he’ll have every opportunity to improve it playing in Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s system. If Johnson is still available when Miami’s turn comes around, GM Pat Riley shouldn’t hesitate to select him under any circumstances.
11. Indiana Pacers: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State
Indiana already has a point guard in George Hill, but to call him an elite scoring point guard and/or playmaker would be a stretch. Throw in that he’ll hit free agency after next season, and Indiana would be wise to draft a point guard that can score, but is also more of a facilitator.
Payne didn’t play at a major program like many NBA superstars, but still impressed enough while playing with the Racers to draw lottery interest. In his sophomore season, he averaged 20.2 points and six assists per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from long range. Oh, and he also managed 1.9 steals per contest. This young man plays with a chip on his shoulder and though he’s only 20, he’ll make the Pacers a regular championship contender once he starts playing significant minutes.
12. Utah Jazz: Myles Turner, C, Texas
Utah’s starting lineup is pretty set from top to bottom, and chances are that Rudy Gobert will be the team’s starting center going into next season. But a little depth never hurt anybody, which is why Utah would be wise to select Turner to help bulk up the frontcourt. This kid can play both power forward and center, and is an excellent low post player who can also flash a mid-to-long range jumper from time to time. His shot blocking abilities also aren’t terrible.
Turner may struggle to get minutes as a rookie, and is definitely a candidate for being sent down to the D-League. But his ceiling is high enough that if for any reason either Gobert or Derrick Favors should go down with an injury, he should be able to step in immediately and help pick up the slack. In time, he’s going to be a reliable NBA big.
13. Phoenix Suns: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
The Suns have long been a team known for playing a fast game and scoring points in a short amount of time, but the small forward position is one where they have lacked consistency. P.J. Tucker is not someone who can be a strong scorer, and second-year man T.J. Warren is better suited in an iso-system than he is in a run-and-gun game. Which is why it is absolutely critical that GM Ryan McDonough draft Dekker if the ex-Badger is still available at this slot.
To understand just how great a scorer Dekker can be in an offense-oriented system, all one has to do is look at how well he played in Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s swing offense, particularly in the NCAA tournament. In his team’s six games, his scoring numbers were as follows: 19.2 points per game while shooting 58 percent from the field and an amazing 43 percent from long range. Throw in the size for the 3 at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, and the case for drafting him makes itself.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky
One thing that the Thunder have been missing greatly since trading James Harden to Houston right before the 2012-13 season is a 2-guard that can step on the court and provide instant offense. Dion Waiters can pull his weight just enough in that department, but lacks the overall consistency that the team needs.
With former Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan now coaching the team, GM Sam Presti would be wise to bring in a shooting guard that can not only score points, but do so in a multitude of ways. That man is Booker, who posted 10 points per game for Kentucky last year coming off the bench. Whether he’ll do that or start in the NBA remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that this young man is a deadly scoring machine in the making and teams that pass on him could very well regret that decision.
15. Atlanta Hawks (From Brooklyn): Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Portis is going to be THE sleeper of the 2015 NBA Draft. He has excellent size for power forward at 6-foot-11, 242 pounds, and plays a strong and versatile offensive game on top of being a decent rebounder. With Atlanta likely about to have a big hole at the 4 if Paul Millsap leaves in free agency, Portis is a great and inexpensive answer to that potential problem. So long as he improves his back to the basket game, he has every chance of becoming one of the best at his position.
16. Boston Celtics: Kelly Oubre, SG, Kansas
Boston is a team that has more young players than it knows what to do with, especially in the guard department, and they are definitely a team that could try use such players to try and trade up or down in the first round. Yet, assuming the team does hang onto the No. 16 pick, picking a deadly shooter like Oubre would be extremely beneficial to head coach Brad Stevens’ offense.
Oubre has a long and lean build at 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, and can also hold his own in the rebounding department. Whether or not he’ll ultimately become an elite scorer remains to be seen, but he should be a fine fit in Boston’s system to begin his career.
17. Milwaukee Bucks: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
The Bucks have a pretty crowded lineup, and are likely to find a long-term center via the free agent market. But given how head coach Jason Kidd runs a fast-paced game, having an explosive 4 who can initially add depth and ultimately earn a larger role would be ideal. Harrell is a bit small for the position at 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, but is definitely the most explosive interior player in the draft class. In his junior year with the Cardinals, he averaged 15.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest and continued to be one of the best dunkers in the college ranks.
He may not ever be a top scoring threat, but Harrell is going to go after every rebound and could become a Kenneth Faried-type player if given the opportunity. Oh, and he WILL win a Slam Dunk Contest someday.
18. Houston Rockets (From New Orleans): Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconsin
Kaminsky was a center at Wisconsin and the Rockets are set there with Dwight Howard, but consider Kaminksy’s playing style. He can work face-up under the basket, is improving his low post game, and can stretch the floor excellently. Thus, in head coach Kevin McHale’s fast-paced system, it wouldn’t be farfetched to see the former Badger play some power forward.
Look at it this way. Kaminsky has size at 7-foot-1, 234 pounds and went from being a benchwarmer as a freshman at Wisconsin to the National College Player of the Year as a senior, not to mention NCAA Tournament runner-up. He also played in a system that called for versatility, which is critical for the power forward in McHale’s system, let alone any run-and-gun game. Give him a year to adjust to the NBA and bulk up in the weight room, and he can definitely become a Pau Gasol or Dirk Nowitzki-esque player.
19. Washington Wizards: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona
Like many teams in the draft, the Wizards’ lineup is fairly set. But having someone more reliable than Nene at power forward would help the team take a step forward. Hollis-Jefferson is a bit small for the position at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, but is a strong enough athlete and leaper that he could fight past bigger and stronger opposing players en route to becoming a reliable player.
He’d need to bulk up, and learn how to play a slower game, but Hollis-Jefferson is a fine defender who could bring a better lockdown game to Washington. Minutes could be hard to come by, but he’ll definitely succeed if given the chance.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA
Looney doesn’t have a traditional power forward’s build at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, but he is an explosive above the rim player that Toronto could desperately use at the 4. He averaged 11.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest in his lone season with the Bruins, but chances are he won’t ever be much of a scoring threat in the NBA.
But that’s not what Toronto needs him to do. All he’ll need to do north of the border is chase rebounds, rise up for blocked shots and play excellent on-ball defense. Toronto already has the tools in place to succeed in Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas, so adding tough D via Looney is the next step that needs to be taken.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville
Dallas could potentially find itself in need of guards when free agency begins, especially with Rajon Rondo unlikely to be back with the team and the possibility that Monta Ellis could opt out of his contract. With head coach Rick Carlisle’s system, a dynamic and versatile guard would be important to have in case free agency doesn’t pan out as the front office hopes. Thus, Rozier is a fine option at No. 21, even if he is a bit of a reach.
He doesn’t have a lot of size at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, but look at Rozier’s averages from his sophomore season: 17.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, three assists and two steals per game. Give him some time to improve his scoring game and become a better playmaker, and he’ll fit right in with the Mavericks, especially with a fine leader in Dirk Nowitzki showing him the ropes.
22. Chicago Bulls: Justin Anderson, G/F, Virginia
If there’s one thing the Bulls are going to need under new coach Fred Hoiberg, it’s a swingman who can bring some athleticism and do it all. Enter Anderson, easily the best athlete in the draft. He isn’t the biggest at 6-foot-6, 227 pounds, but showed marked improvement with his jump shot and can do everything from scoring to rebounding to on-ball defense.
He’d likely come off the bench in Chicago to start, but depth is what the Bulls need now. Anderson could help the team reach the next level and then some so long as his transition goes smoothly.
23. Portland Trail Blazers: Guillermo Hernangómez, C, Baloncesto Sevilla, Spain
Portland will have a lot of things to address in free agency this summer, the center position being one of them. Regardless of what happens there, Hernangómez is an excellent option for the team at No. 23. He has size at 6-foot-10, 243 pounds and has been described as an “old school” player who dominates the low post.
Just how many minutes he’d get as a rookie is a question mark, but Portland would be a team on which he could establish himself sooner rather than later. Plus, with all due respect, anybody is an improvement over Robin Lopez.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Delon Wright, G, Utah
Though the Cavs just lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, largely due to injuries to key players in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the team is really just one piece away from winning a title. They need a guard with a good head on his shoulders and isn’t just going to throw up three-point shot after three-point shot, a la J.R. Smith. Wright has the size for the 2 at 6-foot-5, 191 pounds, but can also play the point in the event that Irving or whoever his new team’s point man is.
As is the case with many players in this draft, Wright’s versatility is also off the charts. He can score both on the inside and from long range, and is a fine passer and on-ball defender. Once he improves his mid-range game, he’s going to be a great guard. If Cleveland takes him, LeBron James could soon be receiving a third championship ring.
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke
Memphis’ current point man Mike Conley will be a free agent after next season, and team management would be wise to find a successor since his price tag could prove to be a bit high, depending on how the 2015-16 campaign goes. In drafting Jones, the Grizzlies would have a player who plays a similar game and could easily adjust to the system.
Jones isn’t the biggest at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, but he can do everything from nail threes to play tight on-ball defense to find the open teammate. He’ll need to do a better job in terms of shot selection once he reaches the NBA, but that’s why he’d come off the bench in Memphis for a year. With his championship experience and strong basketball IQ, his scrappiness would fit right in with the Grizzlies.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Christian Wood, PF, UNLV
With the future of team legend Tim Duncan up in the air, San Antonio could soon need help at power forward. At No. 26, drafting Wood wouldn’t be a terrible idea. He has the height at 6-foot-11, and proved to be a fine rebounder and shot blocker in two seasons with the Runnin’ Rebels.
Moreover, Wood would be set up to immediately play well in a system run by Gregg Popovich, who is a master at drafting depth and molding even his bench players into starting-quality men. So long as Wood adds some meat to his lanky 220 pound frame, he’d be a fine option for the five-time champions.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (From Houston): R.J. Hunter, SG, Georgia State
If Kobe Bryant does indeed retire after this season, the Lakers are going to have a glaring hole at the 2. Thus, it’d be wise for GM Mitch Kupchak to draft a potential successor in Hunter.
Hunter proved to be a streaky scorer in three years with the Panthers, shooting just about 43 percent from the field, but also averaged 18.3 points per game over that stretch. By playing behind Bryant for a year, he’d learn from one of the best on how to become a better player at his position. Once Bryant retires, Hunter would be ready to step in and pick up where the five-time champion left off.
28. Boston Celtics (From Dallas): Chris McCullough, PF, Syracuse
If there’s one thing the Celtics do need, it’s a power forward. Brandon Bass simply isn’t the long-term solution anymore, and neither is Jonas Jerebko. If McCullough is available at this time, GM Danny Ainge would be wise to draft him due to his size and versatility.
McCullough is on the skinny side at 6-foot-10, 220 pounds, but can do everything from block shots to step back for a three-pointer. Once he adds some muscle to his frame and learns to play more low-post instead of face up, then he can definitely become a dominant defensive 4 on the NBA level.
29. Brooklyn Nets (From Atlanta): Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame
It’s becoming pretty obvious that Deron Williams is not the long-term solution to the Brooklyn Nets’ steps towards a championship. He’s still under contract for another year, but GM Billy King would be crazy not to draft what could be an absolute steal in Grant at No. 29.
First of all, Grant has excellent size for the point at 6-foot-5, 202 pounds. He also proved to be an excellent scorer and passer in four years with the Fighting Irish. His great defensive skills are an added bonus. Granted, Nets coach Lionel Hollins’ system doesn’t usually call for a strong scoring point man, but Grant’s basketball IQ is high enough that he’d really be able to adjust to any system that used him properly. Heck, he could probably even play shooting guard if he wanted to. In Brooklyn, he’d definitely be a fine fit as the team looks to rebuild yet again.
30. Golden State Warriors: Jordan Mickey, F, LSU
The Warriors just won an NBA championship, and most if not all of the team’s key players are expected to return. This means that once again, we draft for depth, specifically in the frontcourt. In coach Steve Kerr’s system, Jordan Mickey could wind up being a solid fit.
Mickey isn’t necessarily a player who would thrive in a fast-paced system, and he doesn’t have much size for rebounding at 6-foot-8, 235 pounds. However, he did lead the nation in blocking last season with 3.6 per game. Given how 32-year-old David Lee is slowly becoming a non-factor on the team and restricted free agent to-be Draymond Green will need a younger and strong defensive backup, Mickey could wind up being an ideal fit on the team as the Warriors work to defend their crown in 2015-16. So long as he makes adjustments in his offensive attack, this could work out very well.