NBA mock draft: Towns goes first and the rest just follow

Well, kids, it’s draft day. The anticipation is mounting, and today is the day when multiple teams’ futures will be decided, not to mention those of the young men that are selected by them. This year’s draft class is deep from top to bottom, with guys like Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell headlining a group that is just too full of talent to even consider that at least a small few of them will end up being draft busts.

Thus, let’s get right to it. This is the final mock draft before the magic happens later tonight!


1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Kentucky

The debate of the draft this year has been simple: will Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor go first? It’s essentially a coin toss, but Minnesota’s best bet will be to go with the former Wildcat. He plays an excellent low post game and has size for the position at seven feet tall and 250 pounds. He’s only 19 and will likely spend the first month of his NBA career adjusting to the professional level, but that’s why Minnesota has guys like Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng at the position as well. At the same time, Pekovic’s injury problems and Dieng’s lower ceiling are exactly why the Wolves will draft Towns and reap the benefits on the path back to playoff contention.


2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke

The Lakers drafting a big man at No. 2 isn’t just an idea right now. It’s a certainty. The team’s biggest hole is at center, especially since GM Mitch Kupchak probably isn’t going to pick up Jordan Hill’s $9 million team option for next season, and Okafor is the best center available now that Towns has gone first overall. He’s not the most traditional big man, as he plays more of a face-up game having come from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s signature run-and-gun system, but he is explosive enough that he could complement star guard Kobe Bryant and second-year man Julius Randle perfectly.

Once Okafor develops his back-to-the-basket game, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with and someone that Lakers fans enjoy for a long time.


3. Philadelphia 76ers: Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C, Baloncesto Sevilla, Spain

With rumors swirling that D’Angelo Russell doesn’t want to play in Philly and the fact that last year’s first round pick Joel Embiid may miss the season yet again, it would be prudent for Sixers GM Sam Hinkie to draft some more size in Porzingis. Only 19 years old, the Latvian has great size at 7-foot-1, 231 pounds and has played the entirety of his professional career in Spain. In terms of skills, he can do everything from dunking to driving the lane to rebounding to even shooting from the mid-range and beyond.

Even if Embiid is cleared to play this year, Porzingis is the more reliable player to complement Nerlens Noel. He’ll need to bulk up and develop a low post presence, not to mention adjust to the slower pace of the NBA, but he has all the tools to succeed and become a legend in the City of Brotherly Love as the Sixers continue rebuilding.


4. New York Knicks: D’Angelo Russell, PG, Ohio State

The Knicks have made two things obvious heading into this year’s draft. The triangle offense is still going to be used, and Carmelo Anthony (at least at this point) will remain the team’s star player. That’s all well and good, but it should also be noted that throughout his career, Anthony has only been as good as the point guard getting him the ball. This is exactly why if Russell is available when the Knicks take their turn, it should be a borderline requirement that they take him.

The former Buckeye has unique size for the point at 6-foot-5, 180 pounds and is as fine a scorer as he is a passer. In his lone season in Columbus, he averaged 19.3 points and five assists per game, plus 1.6 steals. Moreover, he’s a great fit for a triangle offense that requires both a strong guard and forward, which can be had if coach Derek Fisher moves Anthony to the 4. He’ll need some time to work on being more disciplined in his shot selection, but there is no doubt at all that Russell is the best point guard in the draft pool.


5. Orlando Magic: Trey Lyles, PF, Kentucky

As I’ve mentioned many a time before, Lyles is the wild card of the draft. He has just as much of a chance to be a Top 5 or Top 10 pick as he does a late first rounder, as his versatility makes his stock nearly impossible to project. However, given how much of a hole the Magic have at the 4, Lyles would be a solid fit for new head coach Scott Skiles.

This young man has the size at 6-foot-10, 235 pounds and though he only posted 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest for Kentucky last season, he is more talented than the numbers suggest. He has a find mid-range shot, can rise up and throw down thunderous dunks, and his drive to succeed is clear. He’ll need to work on his on-ball defense in order to do well in Skiles’ system, but he’s only 19 and will have every opportunity to learn that. So long as Skiles and GM Rob Hennigan are patient with him, this pick could pay off tremendously.


6. Sacramento Kings: Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Guangdong Southern Tigers, China

Here we have another 19-year-old in Mudiay, who may just be the best player in the draft pool. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before moving to the United States at age 5, this young man de-committed from Southern Methodist to go play in China, and he immediately took the Chinese Basketball Association by storm. In just 12 games, he averaged 18 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the field.

Given how Sacramento could use an upgrade at the point over Darren Collison, Mudiay would be an ideal fit with his athletic build at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds. Working with strong-caliber players in DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, he can definitely do well in the NBA. But it should also be noted that Mudiay probably has the highest bust potential out of all draft prospects this year, as he is primarily a slashing scorer that really needs to develop a consistent jumper, which would be critical if he were to play in Kings coach George Karl’s dribble-drive offense.

But the fact remains that Mudiay is a fine young talent, and the Kings really need a jolt that can keep the team relevant under new owner Vivek Ranadive, especially with a new arena on the horizon. So long as Karl is patient with him and doesn’t rush his development, the sky’s the limit for Mudiay.


7. Denver Nuggets: Mario Hezonja, G/F, FC Barcelona Bàsquet, Spain

Denver’s starting lineup is fairly set at this point, so chances are that the front office will just draft for organizational depth, barring any trades that happen at the eleventh hour. To give the second unit an extra jolt apart from Wilson Chandler, Hezonja would be ideal and a fine piece for new head coach Mike Malone.

The Croatian wing can play both the 2 and the 3 and has an incredibly high ceiling at age 20. He’s an excellent dunker, has a pesky nature on the hardwood and his three-point shot borders on being a deadly weapon. Hezonja only averaged just under 13 points per game playing for Barcelona, but the fact that he’s being projected as a lottery pick in spite of that is a testament to how talented he is. Playing on a Denver team that could see a lot of roster turnover happen in the next couple of years, he will have every opportunity to prosper in the Mile High City.


8. Detroit Pistons: Cameron Payne, PG, Murray State

The Pistons are a team that do seem set at the point, but there’s still room for improvement at the position. Brandon Jennings is a score-first guard that isn’t ever going to have the efficiency required in head coach Stan Van Gundy’s system, and restricted free agent to-be Reggie Jackson could prove to be too pricey after putting up excellent numbers in Detroit after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder last season. To be specific, Jackson averaged 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game in 27 games in the Motor City, so he’s definitely getting a lucrative contract offer that Detroit could be hesitant to match.

This is why Payne is an ideal pick at No. 8, even if it is a bit of a reach. He led the Racers in scoring and assists last season and plays with a giant chip on his shoulder, completely driven to prove that yet another player from a mid-major program can do well in the NBA a la Damian Lillard and reigning MVP and new NBA champion Steph Curry. He’ll need to learn how to balance his long range shooting with his interior game, but Payne is a feisty individual who will let himself be coached into being an excellent floor general in Detroit. At which point, depending on what the team does in free agency, he can be a focal point of their resurrection.


9. Charlotte Hornets: Justise Winslow, G/F, Duke

The great thing about Winslow is that on top of being a fine wing defender, he can play the 2 when necessary. It just so happens that the Hornets need an upgrade there.

The long and short of it is in the scoring department, Winslow can do everything from drive the lane and rise up for a dunk to make himself open in the corner or on the wing for a three. So long as he doesn’t try to enter the NBA guns blazing and looking to immediately make a statement, but rather work slowly and pick and choose his opportunities as they come to him, he can ultimately help Charlotte basketball take the next step forward and ease the load off of guys like Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker.


10. Miami Heat: Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona

Miami could soon find itself in a massive rebuild, as team icon Dwyane Wade and team management continue to be far apart in negotiations for a new contract. On top of that, there is no guarantee that Luol Deng will opt in for next season either. Wade’s decision to opt out or not will be made in the next few days, but the Heat would be wise to draft Johnson either way. He has a tough athletic build at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds and can score in multiple ways as well as grab rebounds and play on-ball D.

The odds of him lighting up the scoreboard the moment he steps on the floor are slim, but he can gradually become a reliable scoring option to complement Chris Bosh and perhaps Wade, should the latter choose to remain in South Beach. Throw in his defense, and he’s a great fit in the system.


11. Indiana Pacers: Devin Booker, SG, Kentucky

If there’s one thing the Pacers need, it’s a consistent scorer to help take the pressure off Paul George. Booker isn’t just a consistent scorer, but a lethal one. He can score from practically anywhere on the floor and if he’s left open behind the three-point line, all the opposition can really do is hold its collective breath and hope that he misses.

With Indiana set to have a hole at the 2 once Rodney Stuckey hits free agency, to not draft Booker if he’s available at No. 11 is borderline criminal. If there’s one player who will immediately provide a scoring park the moment he enters the NBA, it’s him.


12. Utah Jazz: Myles Turner, F/C, Texas

Utah’s starting lineup is fairly set at this point so barring any last-minute trades, GM Dennis Lindsey will draft for depth. With Turner’s size, defensive abilities and versatility, he’d be an excellent fit.

Though he looks like a traditional center and shot blocker at 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, Turner is far from it. Apart from dominating the low post and rising up to aggressively swat the ball away, he also has a solid mid-range jumper and can even knock down the occasional three. Can someone say “mismatch?”

If he’s available at Utah’s turn, his presence will only make the Jazz more powerful from top to bottom and make the team all the more tough to deal with over the course of a season.


13. Phoenix Suns: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin

In a fast-paced offense like Phoenix’s, or any fast-paced offense for that matter, a necessity is a wing forward who can score in any way, shape and form. At No. 13, the Suns ought to look no further than Dekker, who has size for the 3 at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds and proved in the NCAA Tournament that he can turn on the afterburners and carry a team offensively when the situation called for it.

Don’t believe me? Just look at his numbers from the tourney: 19.2 points per game, a field goal percentage of 58 percent and a three-point mark of 43 percent. Though he probably won’t put up numbers like that in the NBA, at least not on a regular basis, it is still indicative of just how well Dekker can perform in the right system. This young man’s versatility reminds me a lot of Chandler Parsons and if he can adjust to the NBA quickly, he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.


14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Rashad Vaughn, SG, UNLV

Vaughn’s name is one that has been shooting up the draft boards quite a bit in the past couple weeks, particularly due to his ability to score from anywhere on the floor and his tremendous heart. With OKC having a new head coach in Billy Donovan and needing to give star Kevin Durant some incentive to stick around once he hits free agency next summer, Vaughn would be an ideal fit.

In his lone season with the Runnin’ Rebels, Vaughn averaged 17.8 points per game and shot 44 percent from the field. At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, he has great build for the 2 and would be a grand improvement over the Thunder’s current options in Dion Waiters and Jeremy Lamb. With a fine point man in Russell Westbrook getting him the ball as well as helping guys like Durant and Serge Ibaka with the scoring load, Vaughn can slowly become a great 2-guard in his own right, especially playing for a former college coach in Donovan.


15. Atlanta Hawks (from Brooklyn): Bobby Portis, PF, Arkansas

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Bobby Portis is THE sleeper of the 2015 NBA Draft. He has great size for his position at 6-foot-11, 242 pounds and he is a great fit for a Hawks team that went all the way to the East Finals in 2015, but could lose power forward Paul Millsap to free agency. Portis can do everything from hit jumpers to score in the post to grab rebounds, so Atlanta would be wise to jump on him if he’s available and use any money available in free agency to bring in a shooting guard.

More importantly, the fans in Georgia would know Portis from watching him play in the SEC, so he’d already have a built-in fan base. He may not be a household name on the national level, but Portis can certainly become one if he is picked by the Hawks and succeeds with them.


16. Boston Celtics: Kelly Oubre, SG, Kansas

The Celtics have a great deal of depth already, so this pick is one that is a strong candidate for a trade. However, assuming that GM Danny Ainge hangs onto it, Boston needs a consistent 2-guard that can spark the backcourt and put points in the board in multiple ways. Enter Oubre, who has a long and lean build for the 2 at 6-foot-7, 200 pounds and can score in the paint while also drill threes with consistency.

He’s definitely a project player and will have to compete for minutes with guys like Avery Bradley and James Young, but the fact remains that Oubre has a high ceiling and could become anything from a shooter to a multi-talented 2-guard in his career. In Boston, that’s definitely the type of player that head coach Brad Stevens could use to bring the team even more forward.


17. Milwaukee Bucks: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona

The Bucks’ lineup is fairly set, and GM John Hammond is more likely to find a center via free agency than he is in the draft. What the team needs beyond that is depth and athleticism, which is something Hollis-Jefferson could provide in droves.

He doesn’t have a great deal of size at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, but averaged 11.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game in Arizona’s run-and-gun system last year. Though he can score on an as-needed basis, chances are he’d only be asked to play on-ball defense and be a pest in the paint for the Bucks and head coach Jason Kidd. But it should also be noted that Hollis-Jefferson has a good head on his shoulders and has determination that is through the roof, so there is every possibility that he can up his game in the scoring department. On a young team like Milwaukee, that’s only going to help.


18. Houston Rockets (from New Orleans): Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconsin

If Houston’s fast-paced offense is going to be top notch, it needs a 4 who can add some versatility to the mix. Fortunately, at 7-foot-1, 237 pounds, Kaminsky has plenty of it. The man can score on the inside, is improving his low post game and has a great jumper both in the mid-range and from beyond the arc.

But what makes Kaminsky a great pick for Houston as well as every other team in the draft is his work ethic. He isn’t the best athlete, nor does he look like a dominant basketball player that could be anything more than a rotational player on the professional level. Which is going to be every opposing team’s mistake when trying to create a matchup against him.

Simply put, if given the opportunity, Kaminsky can develop into a Pau Gasol or Dirk Nowitzki-type player, not to mention an excellent leader both on the court and in the locker room. He went from benchwarmer to College Player of the Year in four years with the Badgers, so there’s no doubt in this writer’s mind that he can have a long and prosperous NBA career. In Houston, he’d immediately help the Rockets become a championship contender instead of just a team that can score in bunches.


19. Washington Wizards: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville

The Wiz Kids proved last season that a core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat could get the team into the playoffs and succeed there. Otto Porter should help make that core stronger next season, but Washington would also benefit from having a power forward a bit more reliable and durable than the veteran Nene Hilario. Harrell is a bit small for the 4 at just 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, but is incredibly explosive and would add great physicality on a young team that has gone nowhere but up over the past few years.

Granted, Harrell isn’t a Kenneth Faried-like player who will be a rebounding machine, and he probably won’t ever be a top scorer. But what he will do is play tough defense from start to finish and be a pesky presence in the paint and considering how the Wizards ranked eighth in the league in rebounding without him, adding him to the mix will only make the team better.


20. Toronto Raptors: Kevon Looney, PF, UCLA

Though the Raptors finally got back to the playoffs last season, GM Masai Ujiri would be wise to upgrade the roster at the 4, and not necessarily through free agency. By drafting Looney and letting guys like Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough walk, Toronto’s frontcourt would immediately have a blue collar player to give them an edge both above the rim and on the court in general.

Looney has average size at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, but is a tenacious young man and probably the best defensive player in the draft pool. So long as he is allowed to do what he does best and not asked to be a better scorer, he can probably succeed overnight.


21. Dallas Mavericks: Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame

With the Rajon Rondo experiment having failed and Monta Ellis opting out of his contract, Dallas is in dire need of a guard that can both create plays as well as score. Not only can Grant put points on the board both in the paint and from long range, but he also has a knack for finding an open teammate and playing great on-ball defense. It also helps that Grant has perfect combo guard size at 6-foot-5, 202 pounds.

Grant may need some time to adjust to the pros, but is the kind of player that can do quite well in Mavs’ coach Rick Carlisle’s system. Throw in a fine leader and teammate and Dirk Nowitzki, and Grant can become an NBA All-Star as he learns from the best.


22. Chicago Bulls: Justin Anderson, G/F, Virginia

The Bulls have a talented roster and a fine new coach in Fred Hoiberg, but having some more strength off the bench wouldn’t hurt them. Anderson doesn’t look like much at a mere 6-foot-6, 227 pounds, but is easily the best overall athlete in the draft. This young man can score points, has greatly improved his long range shooting, and can even rise up and block shots if need be.

Just how he’d fit into Chicago’s system under Hoiberg remains to be seen, but keep in mind that all depends on if the team even selects him. If GM Gar Forman does take a flier on Anderson, look for him to be a swingman off the bench that creates excellent mismatches on offense as opposing teams continually scratch their heads on how to stop him.


23. Portland Trail Blazers: Jarell Martin, PF, LSU

Portland could end up losing star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to free agency in July, so drafting a power forward wouldn’t be the worst idea even if he does end up re-signing. Fortunately, Martin should still be available at No. 23 and he would bring a special kind of dominance to the Blazers.

He has the size at 6-foot-1o, 236 pounds and though he isn’t a dominant interior defender like teammate Jordan Mickey, Martin is a big body with a great vertical game. Once he learns to play more in the low post and not relying solely on explosive dunks, he can be a valuable depth asset on any team.


24. Cleveland Cavaliers: RJ Hunter, SG, Georgia State

Easily the player with the most heart in his draft class, Hunter is someone the Cavs simply must select if he’s available at No. 24. His never-say-die attitude and ability to score in multiple fashions and make clutch shots would give the team a much-needed upgrade at the 2 and help star players LeBron James and Kyrie Irving shoulder the load.

Look at it this way. In three seasons with the Panthers, Hunter averaged 18.3 points per game and though he can be a bit streaky, not having to be the alpha dog on offense is only going to make him a better player. Though the fit may not seem ideal based off of his numbers, as he shot just 43 percent from the field in college, give Hunter time. With a little coaching and veteran mentorship, he can become a late round pick that goes on to accomplish quite a bit on the professional level.


25. Memphis Grizzlies: Tyus Jones, PG, Duke

Though he was named the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in 2015, Tyus Jones is not a player that is going to be a star in the NBA. Fortunately, the Grizzlies wouldn’t need him to be that if they pick him later today. Like current Memphis point man Mike Conley, Jones is someone who can slash to the rim, make passes and drill threes on top of being a defensive pest. Given how Conley will be a free agent in 2016, Memphis management would be wise to draft a similar player who comes with a lower price tag.

By playing behind Conley and learning from him for a year and building up his value, thus making him a viable trade chip if Memphis does choose to extend Conley, Jones’ feistiness can help him stick around in the league for a long time and, perhaps help him become the best value pick of the first round.


26. San Antonio Spurs: Guillermo Hernangómez, C, Baloncesto Sevilla, Spain

The Spurs frontcourt could have a hole to fill soon, as team legend and five-time champion Tim Duncan still hasn’t made a decision about his future and is set to become a free agent on July 1. In the event that he chooses to retire at age 39 and not try and chase another ring, Hernangómez would be a fine option for coach Gregg Popovich.

Known as “Willy” to his teammates, Hernangómez is a low post center who plays a blue collar game that Popovich’s system requires. Even if Duncan does decide to keep playing, adding Hernangómez to the rotation would be a fine addition to an already excellent San Antonio defense and if the team is serious about winning a sixth title, this is a young man that can help that goal become a reality.


27. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston): Norman Powell, SG, UCLA

Having taken care of the frontcourt at the top of the draft, the Lakers would be wise to take care of the backcourt in drafting Powell with their second pick in the first round. Why? Well, word on the street is Kobe Bryant is retiring at season’s end, and the team would be wise to have a potential successor waiting in the wings.

Powell isn’t the biggest of 2-guards at just 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, but slashes to the rim past bigger players with ease and can also nail the occasional long range shot. He is also a great dunker. Sound like a Laker great that we all know and admire? Though he may seem like a bit of a reach late in the first round, Powell is someone who can definitely succeed with the Lakers and make the transition out of the Bryant Era a smooth one.


28. Boston Celtics (from Dallas): Richaun Holmes, PF, Bowling Green

Up until recently, Holmes was flying under the radar in terms of draft buzz. Now, it’s looking more and more that he’ll be selected towards the end of the first round. In his senior season at Bowling Green, he averaged 14.7 points, eight boards and 2.6 blocks per game while shooting 56 percent from the field. In three years with the program, he made 57 percent of his attempts.

Just how much he’ll contribute on the NBA level is still a mystery, but Holmes is a powerful dunker and strong interior player who can block shots and grab rebounds with ease. On a Celtics team begging for help at the 4, he’d be a fine option.


29. Brooklyn Nets: Terry Rozier, PG, Louisville

It’s becoming more and more clear that Deron Williams isn’t the top scoring point guard that the Nets were hoping he would be, and the team drafting Rozier would give the team a fine option who could learn the ropes in a backup role next season before stepping in after Williams likely opts out in 2016. He isn’t the biggest at just 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, and he tends to force his shots more often than not, but that doesn’t take away from Rozier’s overall athleticism. Playing for the Cardinals last year, he averaged 17.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, three assists and two steals per contest. That’s pretty impressive for someone his size.

By developing all aspects of his game as a second-stringer his rookie season, Rozier can become more of a true scoring point guard rather than one who just plays the point and takes on offensive opportunities himself because he feels he has to. Once he has a full NBA-caliber team to work with and ups his patience, he can be a key member of either the Nets or whichever team drafts him.


30. Golden State Warriors: Cedi Osman, SF, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, Turkey

The newly crowned champions have a set lineup, so it’s more likely that GM Bob Myers will draft for depth and Turkish swingman Cedi Osman would be a great fit in the team’s system. At 6-foot-8, 194 pounds, Osman can do it all from drive the lane to drill threes to even dish off beautiful passes. If the Warriors do select him, chances are he’ll be used primarily as a shooter.

Osman is also a candidate for someone who will be drafted and then stashed overseas for a year or two. He’s only 20, so perhaps letting him develop with Anadolu Efes for a little while longer is the best idea so that he can come over with a more defined role. No matter how you look at it, Osman is a unique talent who can round out the first 30 picks perfectly.

Chris Obekpa to transfer from St. John’s
Chris Obekpa to transfer from St. John’s