NBA Draft Lottery Mock Draft
*Photo vis USA Today
The Cleveland Cavaliers have punched their ticket to the 2015 NBA Finals after completing a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Hawks yesterday night, in a 118-88 rout. And the Golden State Warriors are one win away from joining the best of the east, currently enjoying a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets with Game 5 scheduled for a 9pm tip-off tonight.
Only three teams remain in the 2014-15 NBA Playoffs while the rest of the league watches from home, hoping to one day be in the same position the Cavs and Warriors are experiencing. And when June 25th arrives, some of those teams will get that chance. On June 25th, the 2015 NBA Draft will give those teams the opportunity to right their wrongs and possibly obtain a player that can provide hope for a brighter future.
It only takes one player to change a team from rebuild mode to the playoffs and the best opportunity to acquire that player is the lottery. 14 teams will have their first pick in drafting the top basketball prospects in the world and I think I have an idea of how it will pan out.
1.Minnesota Timberwolves – C, Jahlil Okafor, Duke University
There’s no better way to leave college as a student/athlete than the way Duke’s Jahlil Okafor left Durham this past year. Enter Coach K’s palace as the number one rated prospect in all of college basketball and leave a national champion, all while improving your draft stock along the way and solidifying your spot as the most valuable player in this draft. That’s what Okafor was able to accomplish.
He didn’t just put up great numbers (17.3 ppg, 8.5 rebs, FG% - .664) in his one and only season calling Cameron Indoor Stadium home but he made us aware that he’s good for 15 and 10 a night, and that equals to a sure thing. Okafor has star potential at the next level and will be able to contribute immediately to a Wolves team that lacks inside scoring in Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng but boasts one of the best young core’s any other NBA team has to offer. Ricky Rubio, Zack LaVine, NBA Rookie of the Year-Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Adreian Payne and Shabazz Muhammad. Okafor could be added to the Minnesota revival and give the twin cities a feeling they haven’t felt since the Wolves drafted Kevin Garnett with the fifth overall pick in 95.
Okafor is a traditional center that has all the moves in the low-post to rival Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol with a smidgen of Hakeem Olajuwon. He can even step out and drain the 15-footer, complemented with baby-hooks and runners. Where Okafor struggles is at the charity stripe. Okafor shot 51 percent from the free throw line this past season, a stat which has to improve if he projects as the cant-miss prospect all the analyst deem him to be. And if there was another weakness, it would be Okafor’s willingness to check out of games if he isn’t having his way when the lights are on.
In the NCAA Tournament, Okafor, against Utah, Gonzaga and the National Championship game against Wisconsin scored six, nine and 10 points respectively forcing Duke to explore other options offensively. Okafor has to show up when the lights shine the brightest. All in all, Okafor is a sure thing.
2.LA Lakers – PF, Karl Anthony-Towns, Kentucky
The Los Angeles Lakers have a history with big-men suiting up for the purple and gold. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol and Wilt Chamberlain come to mind. Does Dwight Howard qualify here? Whatever, fact is the Lakers love skilled big-men and if they can’t get Okafor, I don’t see them passing on Towns. He’s a legitimate seven-footer weighing at 250 pounds. He’s mobile. Capable of finishing through contact.
Here’s what separates Towns from Okafor. Okafor is ready to contribute as soon as possible, but scouts project Towns better down the road as an all-around player because of his defensive capabilities and Towns doesn’t hurt you late in games, like a DeAndre Jordan would because he can hit free-throws. In that one and only year for the Wildcats, Towns shot 81 percent from the free-throw line, so you can actually have a big stick around for crunch time. And defensively, when Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles collectively changed opponent’s shots in the middle, Towns was among that group, individually averaging 2.3 blocks a game, finishing the year with 88, ranked within the top-40.
What’s also impressive about Towns is when his number was called offensively, he stepped up to the challenge. Against giants like Notre Dame and Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament, Towns scored 25 and 16 points respectively, accepting the responsibility of being the go-to guy and thriving in the process.
He might not be as offensively talented as Okafor, but Towns has an idea of what he’s doing on the block with the basics and can hit the 15-footer with consistency. In weaknesses, Towns lacks the explosiveness relying on height and length when attacking the rim and needs become a better defensive rebounder, failing to get under opponents at times and getting beat out of position. And it wouldn’t hurt if he expanded the moves he possesses on the low post either.
3.Philadelphia 76ers – PG/SG, D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
For whatever reason, the Michael Carter-Williams experiment did not work in Philadelphia. Although MCW won the Rookie of the Year award in 2014 and showed glimpses of a dominant big point guard that would present matchup problems on any given night. Instead the former Syracuse Orangeman was included in a three-team deal, involving the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks and was sent to Milwaukee. This year, MCW helped the Bucks reach the playoffs while Philly struggled with a gaping hole at the one.
And in this draft, Russell could be the right way to go with the third pick. If the 76ers draft another big (2013-Nerlens Noel, 2014-Joel Embiid) the city will riot outside Wells Fargo Arena and that’s not what the city of brotherly love is all about. Russell is a top point guard prospect, excelling in the position in a shooting guard’s body, and during his one and only season in Columbus, those skills were exhibited.
Russell finished second on the team in assists (175) behind Shannon Scott (207) in addition to leading the team in scoring, averaging 19 points per game. Just check out this play he made here against Northwestern: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdId6AdS-xg , that’s what he’s capable of, and if you want to view how Russell averaged those 19 a game, check out what he did to VCU in the second round of the NCAA tournament just below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFcfstGcwfU
There, you saw Russell create for himself, hit spot-up jumpers, move without the ball, go back-door and use screens to free himself. He can score in a variety of ways and his elite ball-handling skills accompanied by a smooth textbook, high release jump shot allows him to do so. If Russell ever had a problem, it would be on defense.
I don’t think he’s athletic enough to stay in front of the athletic guards that man the one in the NBA like Derrick Rose or John Wall and could experience some growing pains on the perimeter during his rookie year. All in all, Russell is a big guard at 6’5, will need to add more to his 193 pound frame but could develop into a star in the years to come.
4.New York Knicks – PG, Emmanuel Mudiay
Every New York Knicks fan felt their heart drop when it was acknowledged that the Knicks would be picking fourth because mine did too, but after reviewing the pick and thinking about our options, it’s actually not that bad. One of the top four in big-men and PG’s will drop to us here at four and for that fact alone, the Knicks will be in play for a player they probably already had on their big board. And at four, the Knicks will have their shot at selecting their point guard of the future in Emmanuel Mudiay.
Mudiay took the Brandon Jennings route to the NBA, opting to play for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the CBA instead of honoring the commitment he made to Head Coach Larry Brown at SMU. It was a decision that Mudiay felt he needed to make in order to help his mother.
“I was tired of seeing my mom struggle,” Mudiay told NBCsports.com. “After sitting down with my coach, coach Brown, and my family, we decided that the best way for me to provide for my mom is to forgo college and pursue professional basketball opportunities.” And so he did.
Against grown men, Mudiay averaged 18 points per game on 48 percent shooting, complemented by six assists and six rebounds, despite only playing 13 games due to an ankle injury. In strengths, for a potential point, Mudiay is a big guard at 6’5 which could present several matchup problems for opponents on the defensive end. He’s athletic, he excels in traffic, has the ability to create for himself and others with good ball-handling skills and can attack the rim honestly with the weight (200lbs) to finish in the lane with contact.
Where Mudiay struggles is shooting the basketball. Mudiay shot 57% from the free-throw line and 34 percent from behind the arc. And in being a point guard Mudiay has to master orchestrating the half-court offense like he has mastered running the break. If Mudiay can put it all together, you’re looking at a potential John Wall, Russell Westbrook clone and the Knicks need every bit of those comparisons coming from a point guard the franchise has lacked since Jeremy Lin. That was a joke.
5.Orlando Magic – SG/SF, Justise Winslow, Duke
Justise Winslow is another member of that 2015 Duke National Championship team. Like Jahlil Okafor, Winslow was highly ranked coming out of highschool as the 15th ranked prospect, and albeit one year of college ball, Winslow validated why. The Houston native averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game, shooting 48 percent from the field and a surprising 41 percent from behind the arc.
I say surprising because Winslow excels in attacking the rim opposed to shooting the basketball. He’s a threat in transition with a respectable handle, good enough to go coast-to-coast, maneuver through traffic and finish at the rim with authority. And in the half-court offense, he wastes no time going to the rim, which is his bread and butter.
Winslow is the kind of player that can score without the ball, generating opportunities for himself with aggressive offensive rebounding and moving without the ball. And what I like best about Winslow is that even at a miniature 6’6, Winslow has the weight (225) to bang down low in the post, finish with contact and be a constant threat rebounding the ball. For Winslow to own up to being the fifth overall pick this year, he has to work on creating for himself from the perimeter getting by the defenses of the NBA and develop a mid-range game.
You can only slash for so long and Winslow struggles shooting off the dribble with consistency, which NBA defenses will figure out immediately. All in all, Winslow has a motor that commits to both ends of the floor. And more important for the Magic, drafting Winslow is Tobias Harris insurance if the restricted free agent relocates this summer.
6.Sacramento Kings – C, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
As much as I envisioned a Demarcus Cousins and Kristaps Porzingis front-court tandem, similar to the Memphis Grizzlies frontcourt in Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph, I think Willie Cauley Stein is the obvious choice here. Let’s be honest. NBA teams aren’t just in the lottery because of a lack of talent, but it’s because they can’t score or defend either.
And with a new Head Coach in George Karl who emphasizes ball movement, attacking the rim, limiting two-point jump shots and getting to the free-throw line, Cauley Stein’s game here makes more sense than Kristaps. Because Cauley-Stein doesn’t need the ball, makes plays above the rim, which can be the perfect complement to Cousins. And Cauley Stein excels on the side of the floor where the Kings need the most help: the defensive end. The Kings struggled, as they should, to stop teams all year from scoring, giving up 105.0 points per game, ranked 28th, good for pretty much dead last in the league but not worse than the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Cauley-Stein can help shift the narrative. He’s the best defensive player in the draft, and will probably be the Iman Shumpert of the Kings. Cauley-Stein won the NABC Defensive Player of the Year award, averaging 1.7 blocks per game and totaling 67 blocks for the year, but it’s not just the stats that qualifies his achievement.
At 7’feet and 240, Cauley-Stein possesses the athleticism to guard one through five with great mobility for his size. It’s the reason why he’s a lottery pick and has drawn comparisons to Dallas Mavericks center, Tyson Chandler. Obviously, if you watched the Wildcats this year, you are aware of what plagues the big-man.
It’s his offense. Cauley-Stein lacks the offense talent of an Okafor and even his teammate Towns, doing most of his damage off of lobs and offensive rebounds. And I think it’s important for Stein to not fall into the Chandler trap but take notes from a guy he could possibly be sharing the post with, in Cousins.
7.Denver Nuggets - PF/C, Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
Every draft presents those European lottery prospects you’ve never heard of and here’s one of them. I expect Kristaps to be the first European player taken in this 2015 NBA Draft because, Porzingis has a strength that you can’t teach in the NBA, and that’s height. Porzingis is a legitimate 7’footer with the skill-set of a Mehmet Okur mixed with a little Dirk Nowitzki, and the more video I see of Porzingis the more I believe he could be one of the best kept-secrets of the draft.
In this new day and age of big’s stretching the floor popularized by the game overseas, Porzingis stays true to form. He plays on the perimeter, can shoot the long-ball, mid-range, score off screens, pick-and-roll and also moves well without the ball. Porzingis can put the ball on the floor and create, but it’s not an area of strength for the big-man, and will be appointed to the low-post to continue to develop his game. As much as Porzingis is impressive and talented for his size, his weaknesses have to be converted to strengths if he plans on sticking around for a while.
After watching the scouting video on Porzingis via DraftExpress, Kristaps constantly gets pushed around in the low-post by smaller players and lacks the physical strength to challenge opponents for position in the post for rebounds or just to defend in general. And if that’s the case, he will have a hard time staying on the floor because he could be a defensive liability. When backing down defenders in the post, Kristaps lack of strength limits the position he can gain in moving towards the basket and on many occasions has been pushed out of position and forced to take a bad shot.
And when attacking the rim, Kristaps fails to go into his defenders, preferring to avoid contact to get his shot off rather than drawing fouls which would send him to the free-throw line. There’s a lot to like with Kristaps and there’s a lot to dislike. All in all, Kristaps needs some help transitioning to the big boy game,zz but what works is the fact that he is only 19 and has more than enough room to grow.
8.Detroit Pistons – SF, Mario Hezonja, Spain
The Detroit Pistons have a tough decision to make here at eight. They could use a shooting guard, small forward, and a power forward and with Greg Monroe an unrestricted free agent this summer, expected to pursue other opportunities, the Pistons could have Bobby Portis (Arkansas) and Trey Lyles (Kentucky) to choose from. In the backcourt, Brandon Jennings is coming back from a ruptured Achilles and Reggie Jackson is a restricted free agent.
Jodie Meeks is also on the roster as well as Spencer Dinwiddle, but Meeks isn’t the future of the backcourt and Dinwiddle hasn’t established himself yet. And in addition to the backcourt and the frontcourt, the wing position is also a question mark with Shawne Williams and Tayshaun Prince on the roster. According to MLive.com, President and Head Coach, Stan Van Gundy wants a shooter to space the floor and defend guards on pick-and-rolls.
Spain’s Mario Hezonja can do both. Hezonja shot nearly 40 percent from three-point range for FC Barcelona and is capable of getting his shot off in a variety of ways, running off screens, spotting up, catch-and-shoot and through his favorite step-back move. At 6’8, Mario can get his shot up over most defenses and with a quick trigger. He’s also explosive attacking the rim with a quick first step but lacks the creativity as a ball-handler to be a consistent customer at the free-throw line.
Defensively, Mario goes after it, uses his body well with lateral movement, fights over screens in chasing shooters, recovers well in closeouts and shows a willingness in post defense despite lack of size against bigger guys. Where Mario struggles is in his decision making. Sometimes Mario holds the ball for too long, wants to play hero-ball, and forces tough shots rather than to pass out of defensive pressured situations. He’s also right-hand dominant which NBA defenders will figure out quickly and takes plays off if not enjoying success on offense.
And if Mario wants to ascend to the next level as a pro, he must improve as a ball-handler and steal some moves from wings his size in the NBA like Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Mario reminds me of Danilo Gallinari coming into the NBA even though Gallo was a better shooter. There’s a lot of work to be done here, but Mario has age on his side at 20 years old. He’s only a kid.
9.Charlotte Hornets – SF, Kelly Oubre, Kansas
Kansas’ Kelly Oubre is one of my favorite players in the draft. His size at the wing position is ideal at 6’7, weighing 200 pounds and a lot of skill comes with it. Oubre can put the ball on the floor and attack the rim.
He’s an athlete that can get up off the ground and make plays inside. He can take the ball coast to coast, making plays in transition with a respectable handle, good enough to create plays for himself and others. And Oubre can also shoot the long-ball, connecting on 35% of his three’s with a smooth lefty jump-shot.
Defensively, Oubre’s length can affect the passing lanes, which he showed at Kansas this year (1.1 steals a game), ending up on the business end of many transition baskets due to steals he forced. And with that same length, even when Oubre is beat, he is able to recover and closeout on shooters, capable of blocking shots from behind also. There’s a lot of upside in Oubre and for the former Jayhawk to fulfill it, he would have to improve his ability to create for himself off the dribble.
On a loaded Kansas team that featured other elite NBA prospects like Wayne Selden, Cliff Alexander, and Perry Ellis, Oubre often times came off the bench as relief (9.3ppg) and didn’t get to show the full arsenal doing most of his damage from the perimeter, drive and kicks and attacking the basket from the perimeter. Oubre has to develop a mid-range game and a floater attacking the rim, especially for NBA defenses that are on alert in taking charges and also continue to bulk up to endure the contact he will receive when penetrating the basket and meeting the trees at the rim. Oubre reminds me of Rudy Gay and when it’s all said and done, could be the best small forward taken in the draft. Won’t be surprised if Detroit decides to pull the trigger a pick early.
10.Miami Heat – SG/SF, Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Arizona was one win away from the Final Four, falling to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Elite 8 and one of the reasons why they made it that far was because of their highly touted freshman, Stanley Johnson. Johnson, in his one year as a Wildcat, excelled averaging 13.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and almost two blocks and steals a game. Per 40 minutes, Johnson averaged 19.4 points and nearly 10 rebounds and on most nights became the player that Arizona leaned on to bail them out offensively. And Johnson is one of those players who accepts that challenge.
He wants to be the man, has confidence in his game and isn’t shy about forcing the issue, which at times, could be to a fault. Johnson has a power guard game which fits his physique with an NBA ready body of 6’6 at 225 pounds. He can bang down low in the post and is relentless on the boards despite his height making up for it in hustle and athleticism. And offensively, Johnson attacks the rim just as much as he enjoys pulling up for a mid-range jump-shot.
He attacks with determination but needs more creativity going to the basket and switching shots once he enters the lane. And on the perimeter, Johnson shot 37 percent from three. As far as improving his game, Johnson must enhance his ball-handling skills.
Despite a low turnover rate, Johnson struggles to create offensively sometimes, taking straight line drives or diagonal cuts to the basket but once he arrives has the athleticism and the body control to finish. Outside of Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, the Heat are weak when it comes to wings and in Johnson, the heat have a piece they can develop for the future with the great mentors around to guide Johnson into stardom.
11.Indiana Pacers – C/PF, Myles Turner, Texas
I never liked Roy Hibbert, who has a player option for this upcoming season and will be an unrestricted free-agent in 2016. To be quite honest with you, I think he sucks. David West won’t be there forever, and Ian Mahinmi is offensively challenged. That’s why Myles Turner from Texas makes sense here.
Outside of Towns, Okafor and Stein, this is another one of those big boys that will be taken early because of his size and potential. Turner is a large kid at 6’11 and 243 pounds and the best part about it is the fact that he’s a pup at 19 years-old. On offense, Turner is a project but does one thing pretty well which is shoot the ball.
Turner can drain the 15-footer, stretching the floor with three-point range. When posting up, Turner makes quick decisions with the basketball within five seconds, and resorts to a fade-away jump-shot or a face-up jump-shot. And can also pick-and-pop, preferring to operate from the high-post area.
Turner shoots 83.9 percent from the free-throw line so unlike DeAndre Jordan or even one of the greatest in Shaquille O’Neal, Turner won’t hurt you down the stretch in close games. He also uses floaters and hooks around the basket as well. But defensively is where Turner will make most of his money.
Turner seeks and destroys in blocking shots, averaging 2.6 blocks per game, and due to his ability to cover ground quickly, he can still manage to redirect shots even when he’s beat to the rim. What makes Turner good on offense can be to a detriment. He can be too shot happy and settle for contested jumpers rather than backing his man down to the rim even against smaller opponents.
Although tall in length, Turner is a small 243 and gets pushed around in the low post, struggling to keep his position at times. He can be lackadaisical at times rebounding the basketball and gets beat to the basketball due to a lack of athleticism and hunger. Turner is a great find here for the Pacers but will need some big-man camps to truly master his position and not end up like the next Hibbert.
12.Utah Jazz – SG, Devin Booker, Kentucky
The Utah Jazz were ranked among the last in the NBA (25th) as far as scoring is concerned, averaging 95.1 points per game. And in scoring the basketball, three-point shooting is a glaring weakness for the Jazz, who connected on 34 percent of their treys last season. There’s a logjam at the forward spot in Utah with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert in the post so a guard who can shoot here, stretch the floor makes the most sense.
Enter Kentucky’s Devin Booker. Another John Calipari disciple here will probably be the third Wildcat taken in this draft, this early, behind Towns and Stein. And it’s pretty simple. The Jazz can’t shoot, Booker can.
Booker is one of the best pure shooters in this draft, shooting 41 percent from three during his one-and-done season at the UK this past year. And because of the infinitely talented freshmen class at the UK this past season, Booker got plenty of chances to spot-up and drain a few. He did just that.
Booker averaged 10 points a game, and along with the three-point range, also showed a two-dribble pull-up game that came in handy when defenders closed-out, pump-faking and stepping in for a better shot. Booker has a textbook high release, capable of shooting over defenders especially on close-outs and pull-ups and walks around with good size for a shooting guard, standing at 6’6 and plus 200 in weight.
Booker moves well without the ball, cutting to the basket or running past screens for open looks and in transition, makes the right basketball play in terms of passing, getting to his spots or giving up the ball to either get it back and take advantage of numbers. He makes the right basketball play and in other words, won’t hurt you that much on the court.
As good a shooter Booker is, he isn’t the best athlete. He struggles to finish at the rim sometimes and uses his jump-shot as a bailout from going all the way to the rim at times, to a detriment. He isn’t as polished as a Russell in creating offense and can get bullied by stronger guards on defense. Creating offense for himself will be a struggle at the next level for Booker but his shooting ability will give him an opportunity to see the floor regularly off the bench because the Jazz need some offense in the worst way.
13.Phoenix – PF, Bobby Portis, Arkansas
Bobby Portis is a legitimate big-man at 6’11 weighing 242. During his sophomore season at Arkansas, the Razorback put up impressive numbers in averaging 17.5 points per game and 8.9 rebounds. Portis hits 73 percent of his free-throws which is respectable, but the stat that jumps out to me is his three-point shooting.
Portis can stretch the floor, capable of knocking down the 15-footer, but from three, Portis shot 46 percent from behind the arc, connecting on 14 of 30 three-point attempts. Maybe he should challenge Booker to a three-point contest. All in all, Portis does his best work, bruising inside, and it’s also an area of his game where he can improve. He’s good with his back to the basket but he isn’t Okafor. And also lacks the explosiveness to finish consistently in traffic which also impacts his rebounding. In drafting Portis, Phoenix will get bigger inside, while adding more size to Alex Len already established.
14.Oklahoma City Thunder – SF, Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Sam Dekker’s stock rose in the NCAA Tournament. The bigger the game, the better he played, and he helped the Badgers reach the NCAA National Championship game, unfortunately losing to Coach K and the Blue Devils. And like I said, Dekker shined throughout this tournament.
Against UNC in the Sweet 16, Dekker produced a double-double in 23 points and 10 rebounds on 10 of 15 shooting. In the next round against Arizona, Dekker scored 27 points, and in sinking the undefeated Wildcats, with the chance to go to the Finals, Dekker scored 16. The bigger the game, the better he played.
It’s significant because in joining a Thunder team, an environment used to winning, Dekker will find himself in big game situations and due to his experience, Dekker will be able to contribute effectively. At 6’9, Dekker can score in a variety of ways. He can beat you to the basket with a solid handle, can pull-up and shoot from mid-range or from three.
Dekker Shows great fight when posting up, battling inside for easy baskets where his size works well against smaller players and because of his shooting ability, can pull bigs away from the basket opening the lanes for his teammates or for attacking the rim for his benefit. Dekker’s athleticism isn’t his biggest strength, but it does help him to finish strong when attacking the basket. I like Dekker. There’s a high upside here and he can be one of the biggest sleepers in this draft. For an NBA comparison, I’d lean towards Gordon Hayward. In weaknesses, Dekker has to improve his ability to create offense for himself but through his three-year career at Wisconsin, he has shown flashes of doing just that.
The draft is totally unpredictable and so many things can happen. One of the bigs in Towns or Okafor could slip past two due to team needs by LA and Philly. Although it seems as though that the Knicks will keep their pick at four, reports have surfaced that they are keeping their options open at moving the pick for an impact player or to move up higher in the draft. Under the radar players like Cameron Payne out of Murray State and Tyler Harvey from Eastern Washington could creep their way into the first round. You just don’t know what to expect. It is a crapshoot but for the lottery and the teams that are banking on drafting a franchise player, the fans will pay attention when June 25th arrives. I know I will.