The 2015 NBA Draft has been hyped as a two-man draft with the top prizes being Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. I believe both big men will go onto have nice NBA careers, but this draft is deeper than most people think.
I believe Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell and Duke’s Justise Winslow could both be future NBA All-Stars…but just like any other player, they need to be in the right situation to develop.
Don’t worry international basketball fans, there’s plenty of overseas talent in this year’s draft. You have Croatian Mario Hezonja and Latvian Kristaps Prozingis as the top talents from Europe. Also, there’s an American high schooler Emmanuel Mudiay who went to China in lieu of going to college.
Here’s our early 2015 NBA mock draft for the NBA lottery selection.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky) – Duke’s Jahlil Oakfor played well enough in his freshman season at Duke to be the #1 pick, but Towns has the skills to be a more well-rounded offensive player than Okafor. There’s still some mystique that surrounds Towns since we didn’t see enough of him last year. Kentucky’s deep bench allowed them to sub guys in and out a lot. It’s rare these days to have a top freshman with any mystique left after being overexposed in college. It’s crazy to think Minnesota will have the last three #1 overall picks on their roster.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Jahlil Okafor (Duke) – Just when you think the Lakers are done, something always happens and they bounce back on their feet. First it was trading for Kobe during the 1996 NBA Draft, then the lop-sided Pau Gasol trade and now Okafor. He’s the kind of low-post player that would help complement last year’s pick Julius Randle. If they land Okafor, the Lakers could send Kobe off with at least one more winning season before he retires.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) – You never know what the Sixers are bound to do with this pick. They appear to be on a ten-year plan by picking players that are either injured and not ready to plan or foreign players they want to stash overseas. Russell is the kind of player that could keep them competitive, but do they even want that? They seem to want to tank every year. Emmanuel Mudiay could also be an option here.
4. New York Knicks: Emmanuel Mudiay (China) – Phil Jackson needs a dependable point guard to help run the triangle in New York. Mudiay has nice size for a point guard (6’5) and could help get the double-teams off Carmelo Anthony. He could develop into a point guard like Jrue Holiday, but needs a couple years to possibly to get to that level. Derek Fisher will have fun molding him into the point guard he needs playing next to Melo.
5. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja (Croatia) – Why would Orlando draft another guard after drafting Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo? Hezonja is excellent on the offensive end…he’s also 6’8, so he could defend small forwards. Orlando was one of the worst scoring teams in the NBA last season. They couldn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities and Hezonja will help them greatly in that area.
6. Sacramento Kings: Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky) – The Kings could deal DeMarcus Cousins and still end up with Cauley-Stein to replace him. Cousins needs a change of scenery and on many nights, he looks like he doesn’t care to play defense.
7. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow (Duke) – If Winslow slips down to Denver, they could get quite the steal. He has the ability to play defense right away while developing his offensive game on the job. He would be the best player on the board at this point.
8. Detroit Pistons: Kristaps Prozingus (Latvia) – If Greg Monroe stays in Detroit, they could end up with one of the biggest front-courts in the NBA. They might be one of my sleeper picks to make noise in the East next season. Remember, Brandon Jennings was playing as well as any point guard in the NBA when he went down with a torn Achilles.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Stanley Johnson (Arizona) – Can Charlotte afford to pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 2.0 at #9? Johnson is a carbon copy of MKG coming out of college. Johnson did shoot better than expected at Arizona, but I’m not sure about his fit. Charlotte would end up having three solid defenders and wings would have a lot of trouble against them with MKG, Johnson and Lance Stephenson all on the court at the same time. I guess I’m more intrigued to see how well it translates on the court.
10. Miami Heat: Kelly Oubre (Kansas) – The emergence of Hassan Whiteside has the Heat looking for a two-way player with scoring ability instead of a center. They could pass on someone like Myles Turner and go with Oubre. The Heat will need to build their team through the draft and Oubre could be productive right away.
11. Indiana Pacers: Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin) – Turner could be an option here, but doesn’t Kaminsky look like a guy Larry Bird would love? The Pacers started playing a smaller lineup late in the season and the need for a big man like Hibbert at center is no longer a priority. They hope Hibbert will opt-out of his contract, but I expect him to stay…he’s not getting what he’s being paid anywhere else. Kaminsky has a nice outside-shot and can also get to the hoop. I want to see him on the Pacers.
12. Utah Jazz: Myles Turner (Texas) – I believe Turner will be drafted at #12, but Utah won’t be the team drafting the big man. Utah has Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, so there’s no need for Turner. A team will want to jump up to this spot for him.
13. Phoenix Suns: Bobby Portis (Arkansas) – For a team with an excessive amount of guys 6’10 and taller, they suck at field goal percentage. It’s probably due to the Morris twins taking a few too many bad threes, but Portis is the kind of player that can grab those offensive rebounds. I love the fit a lot.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder: Devin Booker (Kentucky) – I see the Thunder having two choices with this pick. They could go with Booker who has one of the best three-point shots in this draft or go with a guy who come be an all-around sixth man in Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker. I’d personally go with Booker since he has more upside, but Dekker could contribute in more ways immediately.
That’s it for this early NBA mock draft. We will have a full first-round mock draft for the 2015 NBA Draft closer to the draft.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.